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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Rich Blake
Deputy Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee



Here we are again; it seems such a short time ago since the last one!! !

Since then, we have had an excellent stomp, which raised lots of money for tackle (see tackle report) 26km have been found in Meghalaya (see Synopsis and the article to follow in a future issue) Tuska's (WCC) fall has been captured in a picture, and it appears that some of you have been caving.

Many thanks to the two non-members who have contributed to this issue.  Keep the articles coming, I can never have too many!!!

The cut off for articles and letters for the next BB is 3rd June.  Last minute news and dates can be taken until 6th June.

Regarding the stomp, many thanks to the people who gave the raffle prizes for the stomp and helped with the organisation to make it a great success.  I believe a brilliant time was had by all.

It's nice to see we are getting a few new members this year, hopefully other members of the club will follow Mike Wilson's example and help to encourage the new and prospective members in their caving career.  (See Mike's trip report).

By the way, for those of you who thought we had found a new species of caterpillar in Meghalaya in the last BB, they were wrong, it is actually a spelling error on my part, it should had been a centipede.  Nice pair of legs, pair of legs, pair of legs, etc.!!!


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.

No prizes for this one!!!!


See if you can guess where in which cave on Mendip this picture was taken.

Answer in the next issue, and also on Belfry photo-board if you are visiting the Belfry .

Photo courtesy of Pete Glanvill.


Caving and BEC News

Members News

Chris and Gwyn (nee Timson) Taylor are to become parents in September.  Must have been a good Christmas!!!


Photos are still required for the photoboard at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in - Ed.

BEC Website

Is accessible at the following URL (clearly now defunct)

If you try to access it from links from other Websites, you will probably still get the old WebPage. It takes a little while to get other sites to change their links for new addresses.

Stoke Lane Slocker

Further to the article in the last issue, the following information has been confirmed by Dave Irwin:

The Stoke Lane human and animal bones have been found.  After a years searching for them I've seen them and they are being photographed.  Eventually they will be dated - Tratman guessed (1955) that they dated somewhere between late Iron Age to Middle Ages. Dating is important to give date for collapse of entrance into Bone Chamber.  More details in the proposed caving report relating to this cave.  Those who thought that Max Unwin was responsible for the loss of the bones were wrong.

49ers Party

For those of you who are not aware, there are quite a number of BEC members and other regulars from the hill who were born in 1949 and are therefore 49 this year.  They have decided to celebrate in style Midsummer's night (20th June) with a mass party at the Village Hall in Priddy.  Tickets will be available soon from Tony at Bat Products and Quackers in the Hunters Lodge.

Mendip Technical Group

A meeting was held at the Hunters Lodge on Saturday 31st January 1998 to try and hammer out a bolting policy for Mendip.  General conclusions were that re-bolting with resin anchors will generally only be carried out when existing anchors are no longer safe - i.e. no program of systematic bolt replacement although Rhino Rift is an exception as CCC have already approved a complete re-bolt.  The technical group will not have an independent identity (not another caving committee) but will be a loose association of cavers prepared to get involved. Further details from Andy Sparrow.

Speleoscene no. 32

This is available from caving shops (Free - but how about a donation to your local Cave Rescue Service).  This issue contains an article on unsafe maillons, information on karabiner/descender loading, training bulletin on 'Safe Abseiling', also general news and access and conservation issues for all the caving regions.

Thailand 98 Update

Following the stop press in the last BB regarding the recent BEC expedition, "Thailand 98" featuring Rob Harper and Tony Boycott.  It coincided with a very short item in the Sunday Times which also concerned Thailand.  I wondered if there was any connection.  I think we should be told!

The Sunday Times article reads .... "A man who tried to make love to an elephant gave an ingenious explanation to a court in Phuket, Thailand, last week.  Kim Lee Chong, a 61 -year-old chef caught standing semi-naked behind the five-ton colossus, claimed that the animal was a reincarnation of his wife, Wey.  She died 28 years ago.  Chong told the court: "I recognised her immediately ..... by the glint in her eye."  He was given 15 years/jail to expunge his crimes, but they say an elephant never forgets.

BEC Motto - Help

When I was looking at an old BB recently, I noticed the Latin motto "Quodcumque Faciendum Nimis Faciemus".  What does it mean?  When did we adopt it?  When did we drop it?  Where did it come from?  Please contact Blitz (see address for treasurer) if you can enlighten him on this.

Caver Training Facility

A caver training facility for Mendip Wells community education have been successful in their lottery bid to finance a new sports hall which includes a climbing wall and specially designed caver training facility.  This will consist of a balcony with rigging points where SRT, ladder and lifeline or rescue techniques can be practised by local cavers. Completion is due in early 1999.

Digging and Caving News

(mostly courtesy of Andy Sparrow's web site)


Someone has dug out Binney's Link (the direct route into the dry ways in Swildons).  The passage was easy enough as a bit of a wriggle - it is now nearly hands and knees size.  This may be no big deal, but the Mendip principle has always been not to make existing passages easier just for the sake of it - after all where does it stop? Possibly the same persons have tried to open the hole under the hollow tree at the entrance - this will be noticed by the landowner who may not be best pleased at the modification of his property.  Anyone out there who knows the culprits please have a word in their ear!

The Mud Sump. The drain hole was attacked again recently but remains pretty well blocked.  There was a small airspace recently but bailing is still difficult from either side and parties completing a reverse Round Trip or Priddy Green Sink through trip may find exit this way impossible.  Free diving is not recommended as the sump can be as much as 10m long.

Five Buddles Sink

Update - Work continues attempting to follow the stream.  The cave is draughting strongly.

Dave Mitchell's dig

The dig at Charterhouse is progressing well.  This depression was opened with a Hymac and work continues between stal cemented boulders.

Hunters Hole

There is a massive digging operation at the bottom and much equipment left in situ. Several bolts are stripped and replacing these with P hangers will be an early objective of the new Technical Group.

St Luke's

This is a Wessex Cave Club dig at Nordrach (central Mendip).  The dig was hymaced a couple of years ago since when digging has continued steadily.  At -15 metres a small well decorated chamber has been entered.  There is a slight draught and work continues.

Cairo Shaft

This is also in the Nordrach area.  A 17 metre mined shaft enters about 100 metres of partly mined natural passage ending in a sump beyond a tight section.  The sump appears to be a flooded mine level and will be dived soon.

Frog Pot

This is at Chancellors Farm near Priddy.  A surface dig in a depression has revealed a fluted shaft which seems to be exciting everyone who sees it!  Prospects look very good.  Update - a short length of natural passage (10-20 metres) has been entered.

Eastwater Cavern

The bolt in the boulders above Dolphin Pot is very dangerous.  You are advised to use a long tether around a boulder about 8ft back from the head of the pitch.

Flood Alert

Heavy rain earlier in the year produced very high levels; Swildons was up to the second pipe with local flooding in the fields by the pumping station.  At Thrupe the water went straight down the entrance shaft making the Ferret Run and Perseverance impassable.


Tackle Store Report.

From Mike Willett.

Tackle Master. Richard Blake.
Deputy.  Mike Willett.

Hello all.  Firstly I am pleased to say that the BEC stomp was a success and raised six hundred and thirty nine pounds for the tackle store. Thanks to everyone who attended and to those who helped in the running of it, and a special thanks to Roz Bateman for her hard work in the organising of the event.  How the money will be spent has not been discussed in any detail to date, but we'll keep you informed.  As most of you are aware Richard Blake is back with us, and he has been busy sorting through the tackle and engineering a new system to make tackle easier to access, which brings me to the point of this report.

There is now a new tackle store!  This is the old MRO carbide store situated to the left of the old tackle store. The old store is now a workshop for ladder making, or anything related to digging projects.  Surplus tackle is also stored here, but cannot be accessed through your Belfry key. The new store can be accessed in the same way, through the members cave key box; the new key is a padlock key. The contents of the new tackle store at the moment are:

  • 1 x ten meter ladder.
  • 1 x 18 foot ladder.
  • 2 x spreader.
  • 3 x wire belays.
  • 2 x lifelines (new).
  • 1 x tackle bag.
  • For ease the St Cuthbert’s ladder will also be stored here.





Now for the crunch! If not returned, the tackle in the new store will not be replaced!  This new store will run on trust.  You will no longer have to book tackle out!  Simply take your ladder or anything you require, use it, then put it back after giving it a quick rinse under the hose-pipe.  This is for member's convenience but must be respected.  If abused this system will stop; all tackle will be locked away, and as before will only be accessed through a committee member.  Despite the money raised at the stomp, tackle is very expensive to buy, and no amount we could raise would enable us to buy more tackle to replace ladders left in car boots!  Of course the tackle will be inspected and damaged ladders will be replaced.  Common sense will tell you not to put tackle that is obviously damaged back in the store.  The stock is maintained by a small number of members for the benefit of all. It's your tackle, please respect it, not only for yourself but also for other members of the club.

If people require ladders for digging or long term projects, please contact either Richard or myself as we have some older ladders for this purpose in the surplus store. Alternatively for digs, we could supply you with the materials and equipment to make your own ladders to suit your project.  If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to let Richard or myself know as any help is most welcome.



Wookey Hole,

To my fellow BEC members

Following the publication of my letter in November’s issue of the Belfry bulletin, I was informed by the committee that Andy and Nigel felt hurt by some of my comments, and that some of the committee felt my remarks could be misinterpreted by non-members to the detriment of the club's image.

So in the cause of preventing any possible misinterpretation of my remarks, and to repair the hurt to Andy's and Nigel's feelings, I have agreed to clarify and retract some of my comments as detailed below.

With regard to my comments on the post of Club Rescue Team Leader, Andy and myself have discussed this and he has told me that he felt I was inferring that I was unwilling to work with him in the post and questioning his competence as a caver.

I wish to make it clear that I inferred no such thing and I was only giving the reasons for my resignation.

With regard to my comments on Nigel's proposal, I have now discussed this with Nigel and given him the reasons for my comments.  Likewise he has also assured me that there was no malice intended in his proposal and I fully accept that this was the case.  So I fully retract any comments I made in my letter regarding Nigel's Proposal.

In the interests of not boring you all further I will not go into further detail, just to say that Nigel, Andy and myself have now settled our differences and look forward to working together to further the interests of the club and its members.

Regards Alex.

St Cuthbert’s Swallet Maintenance

Date:  Saturday, 28 February 1998

Attendance:  Graham Johnson (Jake), Richard Blake, 1van Sandford, Mike Willett, Alex Gee, Gareth Leadbetter, Roger Haskett, Mr Michael Duck, Dave 1rwin, Roger Stenner & the Hut Warden (Production Manager, Refreshment Division).

Project:  Replacement of the valve on the entrance damn.

Over the past few months there has been increasing trouble with the entrance damn, culminating with Chris Castle proclaiming that the valve was totally buggered on 24.02.98. Jake and Richard investigated the problem during the Saturday morning and found that the fault was due to general wear and tear which had destroyed the thread on the gate mechanism. Unfortunately, the bolts connecting the whole valve to the pipe behind were rusted in place, making a straight forward replacement impossible.  As considerable water was backing up in the depression, they were left with little choice but to remove the internal gate piece and leave the depression to drain over lunchtime.

The workforce swelled over the lunch period and the crew returned in far greater force.  During the afternoon they split themselves into two sections, one working on the valve replacement problem, whilst the other looked to cutting off water flow into the depression through sealing and improving the upstream damn.

The new valve was bolted onto the old and a silt trap was constructed in the form of a low dry stone wall, which conveniently, also serves to direct most of the water down the soak-away.

Further maintenance work is required to unblock the soak-away, but this will not be attempted until water levels drop during the summer.

Report by: Rebecca Campbell


Charterhouse Caving Company Limited

Update to BEC members in respect of the Company's AGM on 4 April 1998

BEC Representative: Rebecca Campbell

The BEC committee has received no correspondence in respect of CCC Ltd activities this year.  As such the only item that we raised was the matter of company budgeting.  The company has slightly excessive accumulated funds that we believe the directors should keep an eye on, in a move to both set and maintain a reasonable level of reserves. The CCC subscription levels will be reviewed accordingly at the next AGM.

Items of interest to General Membership:

1. Conservation Day - GB Car park

11:00am Saturday, 20 June 1998

The company is going to be continuing the cave cleaning work in GB and Charterhouse on the above date. Volunteers are needed to undertake the work.  All workers will need to bring a Daren drum and tackle bag for water carrying.  I would be grateful if any members who have Daren drums would offer them to the caving secretary for use in this event, even if they cannot attend themselves.

Work in Bat Passage will require conservationists to bring a spare clean undersuit and spare clean wetsuit socks.  Normal permit and key provisions will apply for that day.  As all BEC members are entitled to a one year permit this will cause them no extra cost.  If any non-members wish to attend under the provision of a BEC key they will be issued with a permit free of charge.  We have two GB keys so numbers are restricted.  If you are interested please contact the Caving Secretary, Andy Thomas.

2. Rigging in Rhino Rift

Resin anchors are scheduled to be fitted on the first three pitches during the Summer of 1998.  The type of anchor is non-negotiable for insurance reasons.

Finally, on the subject of Rhino Rift, the club has an official dig site at the terminal choke. Little work was undertaken during this year, but Paul Brock is keen to continue the project.  Anyone interested should contact him, whenever.


Membership Secretary

By Roz Bateman

I would like to thank all members who have paid their 1997/98 subs.  In order to up date the membership list printed in the last BB please note the following additions.

New Member:

1237 (P) Jake Baynes, Priddy, Nr Wells, Somerset

Additional Paid up members:

1125     Rich Blake, Priddy Somerset
868       Dany Bradshaw, Wells Somerset
862       Bob Cork, Wells Somerset
1057     Mark Lumley, Stoke St Michael, Somerset
1226     Stephen Ostler, Nailsea North Somerset
1068     John Whiteley, Crediton Devon
1202     Mike Willett, Wells Somerset

I hope that all life and non members have received their new membership cards.  However if this is not the case please contact myself as soon as possible so that you too can be a proud BEC member.   In issuing the last BB to some life members via post, I asked for all undelivered mail to be returned. Does anyone therefore know the current whereabouts of the following members:

  • D Waddon
  • Dermot Statham
  • Pete Blogg




PS. If anyone who has paid after the 31st Jan. did not receive a February BB, please ask Tony at Bat Products as there are still a few left. Ed.

Club Rescue Practice

Saturday 13th June – Location to be arranged

Meet at the Belfry 10.00 am

Contact Andy Sparrow Club Team Rescue Leader for further details


The BEC In Austria 1951/1960 to the present day.

During the preparation for a frustrating, but enjoyable, and for me, first trip to Austria last year, on which we attempted to dive the sump in Magnum Hohle (a report is under preparation for the next BB).  I spent some time in the BEC library looking through old logs, reports, etc., for material relating to the site and the B.E.C.' s activities in the Dachstein in general.

What struck me was the large amount of work and exploration that the BEC has carried out in Austria and the total lack of any definitive collection of reports, surveys etc.  Any records, surveys, etc., seem to be scattered between reports in the BB, some logs in the library and logs, surveys and photo's in member’s private collections.

After reading the comprehensive data, collated by the Cambridge University Caving Club, on their Austrian exploits, I feel that this is a poor state of affairs.

To that end I have started to collate together all the data contained in the library on the B.E.C.'s Austrian activities, with the eventual intention if possible, of publishing a comprehensive book report.

So if any older members who were participants in the Austrian caving expeditions, (particularly those involved in the early sixties to late seventies trips) have any relevant material cluttering up their loft or information of any kind, I would be most interested to hear from you.

I would be particularly grateful if any of you are willing to donate or loan relevant items to the library for this purpose, and to hear your recollections.  If you are loathed to loan items, it is possible for me to scan the items concerned and return them to you within a short period.

Thanking you in anticipation.

Regards Alex

P.S. We will be returning to Austria again this year if anyone is interested.

I can be contacted at email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to my address listed at the front of this BB.


An Appeal from your Librarian.

Those of you that use the library will have noticed that all is not well, journals and publications stacked on every available surface, boxes of reports cluttering up every corner and it is generally in a disorganised mess.  What is the librarian playing at you might ask?  Well the problem is that we have run out of cupboard space, and this is the subject of my appeal.

Some years ago the late Jill Tuck, left a very generous bequest to the BEC.  This bequest enabled the librarian at the time, Trebor, to purchase the existing library bookcases.

Unfortunately these are now full and the un-filed collection of journals and acquisitions continues to grow by the month.

I feel that as so much effort and expense went into providing the club with smart and attractive bookcases that do justice to their invaluable contents and set the library apart from the rest of the hut.  It would be a shame not to purchase similar or identical bookcases to match the existing ones.

I have found through contacting the original manufacturer, that the same bookcases are still available. Here though is the crux of the matter each bookcase now retails at approximately £200.00 plus VAT and we require three at the very least, preferably 5 or 6 for the long term.

I have asked the club treasurer and the committee if there are any fund's available for their purchase, but alas there is not.

So I appeal to you my fellow club member’s generous philanthropic bunch that you are.  To see if there are any of you generous enough to donate some of your hard earned beer vouchers or any odd spare cash you might have hanging around towards the purchase of some new cabinets.

I will start the ball rolling by purchasing one cabinet myself and I look forward to hearing from those others of you that are willing to assist in the upkeep of the library and its contents, please remember no amount is too small and all donations will be gratefully received.

If you wish to donate anything please either contact myself, or post your donation into the hut fees box in a suitably marked envelope.

Thanking you in anticipation, Regards Alex BEC Librarian

You can contact me on 01749 xxxxxxx or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Wind. Vodka And Vomit

by Gonzo

"This is the worst tea I've ever tasted" said Robin, resplendent in his bright cherry floatation suit with matching cheeks, rod and neoprene gloves.

Gradually the cheeks changed to an avocado green and he leaned majestically over the side of the boat to distribute his own special ground bait comprised of vindaloo, sweetcorn, bacon fat, diced carrots, bile, stomach lining and, of course, the tea.

It was late March, 8.30 am, and three miles out in Lyme Bay the sky was leaden, the sea argumentative and the motley fishing party of 5 (those who had actually woken up in time to catch the boat) were grinning from ear to ear, with their rods in their hands as is customary with all Belfryites on a Sunday morning!

Over the next eight hours there were all sorts of entertainment on the good ship Neptune including a 7 lb bull huss, numerous dogfish, pouting, lugworm sandwiches, channel whiting.  Trevor pulling up the anchor when the winch broke, pouting, Butcombe, cuckoo wrasse. Whitbread, more bloody pouting. Gonzo wearing two left wellies, the smallest ling ever, wind, Vodka and vomit.

Arriving back at the Cobb in Lyme Regis everyone agreed that it had been a superb day and we booked the boat for a cracking good tide on Saturday June the 6th.  This will be a day out on the wrecks about 15 miles out (not over-fished, no divers).

If you're a closet angler and you fancy joining us then you're very welcome, empty your freezer and bring beer, butties and a camera to the Cobb at 8.00.

We're trying to make this a more regular occurrence, perhaps 3 or 4 times per year.

The boat costs £180 for the day, rods, reels and tackle included, and will comfortably accommodate 10 fishermen (or fishergirlies!).  To avoid being landed with extra expense when people don't show, anyone who wants to secure a place should send a deposit of £15 well in advance to Robin Gray, Albany House, Cheddar, Somerset BS27 3PT, or put it in his pot at the Hunters.  If you can't make it and we can find a replacement you will get your deposit back, otherwise it will go towards the cost of the boat and bait. In the event of a cancellation due to bad weather, plan B will be a day’s beach-casting and a new date will be arranged for the boat.

We are also organising a weekend down at Prawle Point, between Start Point and Sa1combe.  The fishing here off the rocks is superb, especially the bass fishing at night, the diving apparently is exceptional (don't ask me, I'm not a diver) with very clear deep water straight off the rocks. There is a secluded camp site at Maelcombe House with unspoilt views over the sea which is just 100 metres away, diving gannets and all (twit-free, limited Grockle appeal with the nearest decent beach being 2 miles away).  There are no facilities except water, take your own bog.  2 good pubs are about a mile away at Prawle.  I've seen small boats being taken to the beach from the house by tractor, this might be of interest to the divers in the club.

This trip will take place some time in July or August, dates to be sorted out soon.

I hope that this is all of some interest.  There are certainly a lot of barroom fishermen in the club and it would be good if we could make these sort of meets a regular occurrence and a welcome break from digging, digging and more digging.


Cartoon - Undergrounders



Edmund's Chamber~ Wookey - Further Notes

By John Cordingley (CPC/CDG)

Pete Glanvill wrote a superb article in the February 1998 Belfry Bulletin giving information about various high level possibilities available for further work by cave divers. On page 10 he briefly describes some passages reached by a long climb above Edmund's Chamber.  The ascent to the water surface here is one of the most impressive bits of diving in Britain and the huge aven soaring above is certainly very inviting.  However - a word of caution wouldn't go amiss.  Andy Goddard, Russell Carter and I went there in 1989 and I got "volunteered" to de-kit and go and have a look at the high level dry stuff (see C.D.G. Newsletter No 93, page 35).  I free climbed most of it next to the in situ rope but had to put a jammer on it to protect the final overhanging moves up to the passage.  On arrival at the top the rope was found to be fastened to a single 8mm bolt which was finger tight and would only go in two and a half turns.

Pete had invited us to go and take a look at this area of Wookey and I passed a boulder restriction at the previous limit to explore about another 9m of crawl in a small sloping bedding plane to where it got too low.  It's almost certainly a bang job and there was nothing obvious to aim for and no really convincing draught.  All that remained was to get back down safely which was slightly problematic in that I'd been assured that I could abseil back to water level.  There was no way I was going to trust that bolt and so free climbing back was the only option.  This was eventually managed after several worrying moments but was far from easy. I don't know if anyone has been and sorted out this rope but if not, the next visitors to this particular section would be well advised to ignore the existing rope and re-climb the aven from scratch.  If you rely on the rope and that bolt fails you could fall almost 30m.  There - my conscience is clear ... !


Thrupe Lane Trip

By Mike Wilson

SATURDAY 31st JANUARY 14:00 hrs

Persons present: Zot, MR Wilson, Rich, Vee, Mark, Mike, Toby (Trainee Belfry Boy)

This trip was designed to be a steady bimble on ladders to orientate new and future BEC members into the intricacies of Thrupe Lane.  I had a pleasant surprise when everyone turned up on time, including my right hand man Zot.

We all gathered at the entrance, a positive crocodile by BEC standards, and laddered down the entrance pitch.  Then having tootled down the ferret run, pointing out the Railway tunnel as we went, we then laddered Perseverance pot and pottered down to Cowsh Crawl.  I mentioned that 10 years ago Cowsh Crawl was tight, IT'S NOW AS SLACK AS YER HAT.  The team wandered down Marble Streamway and had a look at Atlas Pot, Zot and I pointed out the various routes and bolt points.  We then toddled back to Butts Chamber had a look at Avalanche Pot, then following some neat little Orange markers, which proved to be Zot's oversuit which was slowly shredding.  Not surprising as he had found it in a ditch somewhere on Mendip.  Clearing up the mess as we went we exited the cave; Toby had a peep at the Railway Tunnel while the rest climbed out. Sadly he declined to have a shower with me back at the shed; I was only trying to save money!! A steady trip with 4 potential BEC members in the group; I intend to jack up another trip on Mendip sometime during the Summer months possibly Stoke Lane or Eastwater Twin Verts the classic way.

I hope other elder members will follow my example this year.


Collecting: Caves or A Crap in Little Tripnell

(as Spooner might have said)

By Peter Glanvill, Jan. 98

The spate of Hymac initiated digs in the last few years seems to have resulted in more digging than caving.  In other words the caves get found, are explored and then quietly forgotten (especially if they aren't listed in a guide for years). While this is great for conservation it does pose difficulties for those who want to know the cave's characteristics before entering it.  I've concluded that any advice from J-rat on a cave's dimensions carries the assumption that I carry cakes and bottles marked 'eat me' or 'drink me' for dimensional alteration during the trip.

Sally in the entrance series in Little Crapnell 

I approached Little Crapnell armed only with information gleaned from one Descent article and some brief chats with one or two visitors to the cave none of whom gave very precise advice. However I decided if somebody could contemplate diving the sump at the end and do the trip out breathing from their bottles due to high C02 levels then it couldn't be too awful.

So, one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago Sally, my daughter, and I arrived at Dave Speed's farm and met the man himself.  The visitors' log only extends to half a page or so, so clearly the cave's fame had not spread far and wide.  There then followed one of those ‘I had a little trouble' conversations with Dave guaranteed to make one think twice about doing the trip at all.  However a recce. trip with Ken Passant a week or two earlier as far as the duck beyond Great Expectations suggested it couldn't be too bad so off we set.


'No worries about carbon dioxide anyway with the recent damp weather', I thought, 'and the streamway will be pleasantly active'.  We dived down the cemented boulders into solid cave.  A coffin lid like slab was the way on with a slither and bump into a crawl past an incongruous galvanised dustbin lid (to protect the drip formations (?)).  The stream is met here and the crawl ends in a climb down through boulders to enter a wide descending tunnel - Great Expectations.  It all looks promising but unfortunately GE seems to be just a washed out shale band.  Beyond is a low gravelly twisting descending streamway which led to the first real obstacle - a low elliptical wallow in the stream a bit like Sump One in Cuthbert’s but narrower.  'Cell off and drag the ammo box' I decided after jamming my head between floor and ceiling.  Once through the first bit it was very straightforward although some minor contortions were required to drop into the rift just beyond into which the water cascades. Sally with her Kate Moss configuration didn't notice it was a constriction; nauseating!

A shuffle sideways reaches a point where the upper part of the passage can be seen to be much wider and formations appear at The Old Curiosity Shop.  The rifty nature of the passage reminded me a little of caves in County Clare although not nicely scalloped.  Another cascade followed ('This is nice' I thought) at which point I was abruptly confronted by a narrow rift passable only at stream level.  A test thrutch with the battery on encouraged me to take helmet and cell off before a snagging wallowing sideways thrash in the water got me through.  My elation didn't last long.  I was lying the wrong way round in a pool facing down a ramp with another squeeze/contortion to tackle.  A few pathetic wriggles later I noticed the stream had gone quiet.  I did a press up - a loud roar from the backed up stream was followed by the realisation that there were two of us, I was leading, and I was the wrong side of an awkward squeeze.  I wimped out and after an interesting reverse thratch (thrash and thrutch) I rejoined Sally.


We had stopped just short of a feature called Ebenezer's Escalator which apparently is 'roomy' and well decorated.  Beyond it the cave sounds like purgatory and according to Estelle probably is although she cannot remember much apart from the pain. (this cave is not a good hangover trip - Ed!!)  On the way out I photographed the very nice chamber above the streamway although this time the damp had got into all the electronics.  Passing the first constriction going out was a doddle, and I certainly would go back again although wearing a wet suit for ease of movement in the constrictions.

Back at the farm we had one of those 'How far did you get?' conversations with Dave Speed when I discovered the blighter hadn't even got as far as I had!  He also told me he is trying to increase the Little Crapnell cave quota to 3 this year when one of the other depressions on his land gets Hymaced. What's the record for number of caves on your land (excluding Lord Bath)?

The previous week Ken Passant and I had visited Honeymead Hole which lies only a hundred metres from Little Crapnell.  There is no detailed description yet available of Honeymead although its total passage length is now a respectable 356 metres with 52 metres depth.  This account is derived from the experiences on our trip and information from a variety of Descent articles.  Honymead Hole is interesting in that the entrance was only located after 30 feet of topsoil had been removed by the standard digging technique. It is unlikely this cave would ever have been found by more conventional means which makes one wonder what else remains buried beneath Mendip.


The concrete entrance shaft drops through boulders to reach a roomy chamber - Slab House with a few stal formations dotted about it.  A hole in the floor was rigged with a ladder which seemed OTT when we descended what was basically a short and easy free climb.  I am told the ladder was to prevent too much pressure on hanging death boulders.  At the bottom a short low section opened into a walking sized rift and within a few metres to another laddered pitch (we begun to wonder if we needed the ladder we had brought).  This again seemed eminently free climbable (especially as the ladder didn't look too hot - more of this later) and at the bottom a narrow rift led into the darkness.

I had a little trouble here and found it easier to do head first as there is an awkward boulder to get over at the far end if you do it feet first (as I did).  At the end a cross rift was entered.  A short but tricky looking drop on the right was ignored in favour of a rift chamber on the left off which led another rather narrow looking rift.  We aborted a climb into the roof when all the foot holds seemed to turn to clag the higher one got and decided to do what turned out be the easy drop back on the right.

Although there is very little water in the cave, at this point we did seem to enter a rather immature twisting streamway which ended abruptly at a pitch partly covered by a false floor with a nice little grotto above.  Yet another ladder hung down the pitch which looked deeper than the rest - and the ladder didn't look quite so superfluous.

A muddy grovel past the pitch opened into a really decent looking rift with some nice stal on the far side (Balcony Pot) and an obvious way on in the floor.  A duck under an arch to the right at the bottom let to an interesting zone of hanging death where the boulders are dry and red (Neptunian dyke (a term which has nothing to do with butch lesbian mermaids)).  Ken and I wormed our way down into the floor following a bang wire and found the cave to end in a too tight rift.  A climb up through the hanging death enters quite a decent sized chamber - Neptune's Hall but the bar placed to prevent one touching the boulders didn't inspired confidence so we made our excuses and left.

Several abortive and one successful flash shots of Balcony Pitch later saw us ready to shove Ken down Keen's Pitch.  This is a nice pitch by anyone's standards and it is disappointing to report that after some nice formations at the bottom the tiny streamway starts to take on Easy Street type dimensions so more excuses and a departure.

On the way out I decided the second ladder pitch would look photogenic.  Several shots later the slave worked and Ken who had been clambering up and down to fiddle with the flash gun after each failed effort started up the ladder for the last time.  2 metres up the ladder broke dropping a surprised Ken back at the bottom yet again.  After this little fiasco we made an uneventful exit muttering about dodgy fixed aids!

Honeymead has numerous interesting side passages and could keep diggers busy for ages particularly as there is no obvious terminal point to dig.  It will be interesting to see if the meadow yields another cave.


Wessex Cave Club Hymn

This is a collection of known verses sung to the same tune and with the same ideas.

Tune: The Church is One Foundation. Author: Many

Source: They Words, They Words, They 'Orrible Words, collected and compiled by Nick ComwallSmith, GSG / Alfie, to name but a few!


We are the Wessex Cave Club, no bloody use are we,
We have a half of cider, and then we have to pee,
And when we're down in Swildons and haven't got a light,
We stand beside the Forty beside ourselves with fright.

The B.E.C. they help us, through every pitch and squeeze.
We like the way they do it with such consummate ease.
And when we are much better at caving we agree
It is our one ambition to join the B.E.C.

We are the Shepton Cave Club, a family clique are we,
Ken Dawe he was our leader, a clever bugger 'ee.
He led us over field and stiles, down potholes vast and deep,
Because we follow meekly we're called the Shepton Sheep

We've dug down South East Inlet, we've dug in Priddy Green,
And in between the digging, we're often quite obscene.
We tell prospective members, with regularity,
To do just as the song says, and join the B.E.C.

We are the Cerberus Cave Club, we are not worth our salt,
Max Unwin is our leader, but that is not our fault,
He lectured us on caving, his wisdom was profound,
He told us that most caves are located underground

Caves are discovered for us, from digging we all shirk,
And when it gets too dicey, other clubs can do the work,
For they can draw the surveys and they can make the maps,
'Cos when it comes to caving, we really are the chaps.

We hold committee meetings, we talk and never cave,
We pass firm resolutions, to show that we are brave,
We very often argue, but on one thing we'd agree,
If only they would have us we'd join the B.E.C.

We are the Axbridge Cave Club, we know we are so good.
We blow up every Elsan, just as we know we should,
But as we go to blow it, in the middle of the night,
When the turds go skywards, we run like f**king shite.

We are the Cotham Cave Club, but not as we may seem,
You show us a cave entrance, and we will start to scream,
For we do not like caving, but give it all the snub,
The nearest we touch caving, is in a Mendip pub.

Additional Foreign Verses

Swildons goes to Wookey, or so they do confide,
There is a sign to say so, on the Sump 1 downstream side,
But this is misconception, there is a brand new sign,
Now Swildons is an Entrance, to Dan-yr-Ogof 9.

We are the Clockwork Cave Club, and South Wales is our home,
And from our native valleys we do not care to roam,
And when we go out caving it is a certain bet,
That we will carry with us a great Meccano set.

We don't go down Pwll Dufn, you'll find no rawl bolts here,
The thought of ladder pitches, it fills us with despair,
And if you go out caving with S.W.C.C.
You'll always find a welcome, if you've got a B.Sc. (in Engineering)

The U.B.S.S. divers, they've found a brand new hole,
They told no-one about it, they did not tell a soul,
And when we found out about it, they said please stay away,
Until they all got stuck there, one dark and wintry day.

We are the Tratmans Fan Club, we are a shower of shits,
We often need the rescue to extract us from a fix,
And when we are in Yorkshire, before we go below,
Our automatic procedure is to inform the C.R.O.

The U.B.S.S. Choir boys, they are a dreadful crowd,
Each song becomes a death march, at volume extra loud,
And when they get a chorus, they chant in ecstasy,
They only trouble being, it's in a different key.

We are the Mountain Rescue, and a bloody fine thing to be,
The only time you'll see us, is breakfast, dinner and tea,
And when we see a climber, we shout with all our might
Per ardua profundo, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never go up mountains, they are too bloody steep,
We never go down potholes, they are too bloody deep,
And when we see a caver, we shout with all our might
Per ardua profundo, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

I am a lazy speleo, and a bloody fine thing to be,
My weekends spent on Mendip, in a hut of luxury,
When someone mentions caving, we shout with all my might
Celeriter ad plumen, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never go out sumping, it is too bloody wet,
And when we go Black holing, you know how far we get,
And when we see a sumper, we shout with all our might
Per ardua sub aqua, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never help out cave divers, they are a bloody bore,
We set fire to the bat shit, and sleep outside the door,
And as the flames rise higher, we cough with all our might,
Per ignea via asbestos, blow you Jack, I'm alright.

We never go out digging, it is too bloody cold,
And unless Tratty finds it, it's never really old.
But when we find some charcoal, we shout with all our might
Per ardua sub muro, blow you Jack, I'm alright.


Bahamas December 1997

By John Buxton

Some of you will know that I am a geriatric cave diver, and if you have read your BB Vol. 48 No.6. (The 60th) you will know that I have in the past dived in the Bahamas.  This last year in December I went on my 4th expedition, this time I persuaded my wife Audrey to go too of course her baggage allowance did come in useful.  It allowed me to take a full set of diving gear and lighting with me!  All I had to use of the equipment on the boat were weights, cylinders and a reel.  Nevertheless by the time I had 6 torches and a dive helmet, a l2V Nicad dive light (by Stewart Kirbythe fancy coloured one!) and 4 demand valves and all the usual equipment that seems to be essential for serious cave diving these days, we found it quite a load.   We had to use most of our clothes as padding for the more delicate parts of the equipment such as chargers.

I had extolled the virtues of this type of diving, and found out not long before our departure that Robbie Warke from Devon was going on the same expedition.  We had not talked in detail but we found ourselves at Heathrow waiting for the same AM Virgin flight to Miami.  We chatted and found that Robbie was on a different connecting flight to Nassau and we did not see him again till the next morning. International luggage can be "booked through" from one Airline to another, so we had no problems with luggage to worry about; but schedules for change over have to include a certain time for the luggage to travel from one airline to the next.  We had allowed about 2¼ hrs and booked on American Eagle who fly a frequent service to Nassau.  Robbie had booked on Bahamas Air with about l½ hrs between the two timings. Unfortunately the Virgin plane was an hour late mainly due to head-winds.  We had a leisurely walk through the airport to the AA departure area and found that due to violent electrical storms (which apparently started half an hour before our takeoff time, and half an hour after Robbie left - he got to Nassau on time!) most flights were on hold.

Following on from this, one or two planes went unserviceable mainly from weather problems.  With the available day crews running out of hours, efforts were made to get crews who were off duty.  The weather gradually improved, and postponed and delayed planes began to load.  We had now been waiting from 5.0pm to midnight.  We got on a flight that was packed solid - some of the passengers had actually been loaded onto a plane that turned into a shower cubicle just before take-off!  We left about 1.0am and arrived at Nassau about 2.0am.


Brian and Graham in “The Victor’s Pose’

Finding a Taxi who knew where we were going was not easy, we had to share and do a detour through a very upmarket residential area with a security man on the gate.  We had an interesting search in the dark for a "canal basin" sort of mooring at the bottom of someone's garden.  Knowing that it was in sight of Nassau Scuba Centre helped our location directions quite a lot!  Eventually we found our boat the "Ocean Explorer" tied up No.3 from the shore.  By 2.30 in the morning we had carried all our luggage on board over the two yachts, the movement woke the skipper Gene who came down and showed us our cabin.

The following morning we staggered out for breakfast and were introduced to the crew and the two divers who were already on board.  One, of course was Robbie Warke, and the other one was introduced as "Brian"; it was late that day before I realised his other name was Kakuk.  He had explored Guardian Hole in North Andros to a depth of 420ft. amongst many others.  Friday had a fairly easy start, Robbie told us during breakfast he had got to Nassau airport by about 5.30pm the previous evening; but his luggage had not made it!  He soon departed by taxi to do some luggage hunting.  We were also waiting for Kevin Mack and Murray Bilby to arrive from America. I had met them both on previous trips.

Eventually Robbie and his gear were aboard and as nothing much was happening he and I decided to assemble our kit and sort out our buoyancy in the canal, which was fairly clean salt water (with a sea fish population which was quite friendly).  We were allocated cylinders from the large selection on board and we fitted them with the Side Mount attachments for our style of diving.  When the rest of the party had arrived with their gear, we set off for Andros under the early afternoon sun.

When we got into the deep water of the Tongue of the Ocean Gene put on speed and we had a reasonable trip, only rolling a bit when we turned towards the Andros shore and were across the wind.  Progress was halted three times while fish were removed from fishing rods; these had lures which were pulled through the water by the boat.  The first one was a "Wahoo" a local delicacy, and Gene had just started to fillet it when the engine was shut down again.  (The person operating the boat can hear the reel scream when the fish hooks itself, and immediately shuts down the engine to a tick-over).  Those in the know immediately rush to the stem to watch.  The second event had two rods in action with a fish on each. These turned out to be "Wahoo" also.  With three large fish on the stem the cameras were busy - 3 at one time was a first!

Brian's scooter in its 'parked' mode

By the time all three were filleted the stern was a rather bloody mess and the fire hose was exercised to restore order.  When all was clear and we were on our way again another rod started to scream and again the engine was shut down.  A volunteer was called for who had not landed a fish before.  Never volunteer they say! I did.  I was fitted with the pukka leather harness with a socket at the front to hold the butt of the rod (rather like Anna who carried the Banner.. ... I).  I began the familiar process (to those who have seen it/or on the telly) of pulling in, relaxing and winding in, pulling in, relaxing and winding in etc; and I had pulled in some 50Mts. out of some 150Mts., and was thinking this is not too difficult, when there was a terrific pull and despite all my efforts line was pulled off the reel against the brake at quite a rate.  When the pull stopped I started winding in again, and again a vigorous pulsing pull could be felt, but not as bad as before.  I carried on winding and it got easier, I thought the fish was tiring. It definitely was!  When in gaffable range it was seen that a gigantic mouthful was missing from the middle, and the tail piece had gone.  In fact after photographs, it was thrown back into the sea!  It was decided by the experts present that it had probably been nibbled by a large Wahoo - identified by the shape of the bite.  I hesitate to think what would have happened if it had hooked itself.

Quite soon the sun was sinking in its usual Tropical splendour and dark came quickly.  Gene with the skilful use of Radar, Depth-sounder, the odd flashing light and a lot of local knowledge, navigated through the shoal water.  We ended up anchored near the Benjamin Blue Holes, just south of Lisbon Creek.  We moored there for the night.

The following day, i.e. just after midnight, we started our standard routine for the rest of the week. Dive the holes as the suck dies away, if possible, so that the change in direction helps on the swim out.  Kevin and Murray, who both dive back-mounts were paired up together.

Brian was really a one man diving crusade, he had a large customised Aquazepp with twin cylinders underneath it, and it had a stab jacket wrapped round it to adjust its buoyancy as needed.  He himself carried two side-mounted cylinders also mounted on a slender stab, jacket, and usually took with him, a cylinder of oxygen to leave at a suitable place for decompression.  This left Robbie and myself to form a pair.  Robbie had not done any long deep swims before and so he was introduced gently to our first dive.

Benjamin's No 4.  This is the "Cousteau dived here" cave where they all used underwater flares - yes I am old enough to have seen it the first time round!  The dive starts as a wide inclined bedding plane; this soon steepens into a vertical rift where the line runs at about 36M.

The S. line follows the easiest route along a deep rift descending to 46M before rising up to the Stal Chamber.  We turned the dive here after admiring the scenery with my 50 watt light.  We had Nitrox 40 available on all dives for decompression and/or extra safety as we decompressed on our air computers.  Most of our dives followed the same routine.

Our next dive was to be the North passage, but having followed the jump line down we could not find the N. line - so we did the S. passage again.  Robbie said that he enjoyed it probably more than the first time. I found that these big rifts were a bit overwhelming when I first met them.  On most of these dives we were dropped by the RIB in pairs, but sometimes as the boat swung on the anchor with the tide it was much nearer, and we swam back on the bottom at about 3M.

The author after swimming back to the boat from a Blue Hole

The next dive was to be Stargate, - arguably the most awe-inspiring underwater decorations most divers are ever likely to see.  It is an inland Blue Hole, where the diver jumps in and climbs out.  The kit is pulled up by pulley.  Apart from the formations it has a Halocline where the freshwater lens sits on top of the lower salt water.  This has an interesting effect on vision at the junction and also produces a rotten egg taste in the water - hydrogen sulphide. The water gives a greenish hue to daylight filtering from above.  We set out on the S. passage; Murray, Robbie and myself in procession, and found the line, a blue English style poly-prop. on the R.H. wall at about 30M deep.  We followed the S. line, admiring the decorations as we went, until the large passage ends at a narrow rift on the RH. side. There was Brian's scooter parked on end by the wall and a faint haze where he had swum off into the rift. Murray elected to swim down too, but I being the cautious one, decided that as there seemed to be two lines in there already, and Murray had added somewhat to the silt, two was company, so I indicated to Robbie we should hold fast where we were for a while.  When Murray had not returned after a couple of minutes we swam back up the line and by the belay into the greenish twilight zone beneath the entrance and looked for the North line.  It was not easy to spot, it was a white American style parcel-string belayed on a white flow stone sheet.  The delay in finding it allowed Murray to catch us up.  We swam rapidly along the line, admiring as we went as our air supplies were approaching turn round point.  We did get to the Cathedral like end of the chamber and then swam back to the green zone and slowly ascended to our Nitrox deco cylinders hanging on ropes, put in by the shore party.  I had dues of some 35 minutes decompression (we had been at an average depth of 40M for some time) but as usual I did extra. Robbie had a definite twinkle in his eye after this dive.

The next dive at 04.30 I declined, and slept in.  Brian had another go at Benjamin's No.2, in case he got to No.4 the jump line was left in. Early the next morning I volunteered to take out the jump reel and the marker buoy, so the others would not get large deco penalties.  Brian took me out in the Rib., I had put one cylinder only on my wings and extra weights, but as the hole was in full blow I had to swim hard vertically down the rift. The whole operation took only 9 minutes, but I got to 36.2M!

The next dive was Atlantis where the entrance shaft soon opens up into a very large chamber.  There are three labelled lines in it, so divers have a choice.  Robbie had already elected for a bit of depth so we started on the Highway line and when we were above the deep line we dropped down to it.  Both of us decided at the same time that 57M was enough, and we ascended to the Highway line and followed it towards Murray's chamber. Thirds beat us to it, so we never got there.  The next dive we decided to do Murray's chamber first! but as we kited up Robbie felt "proper poorly" and retired to bed with Aspirin etc.  So left to my own devices I dived solo down the Middle line, this goes down to an arch at 72M and ascends a big white (coral) sand bank.  I went a short way up the sand slope and decided I was far enough for a first time look.

The next dive was Funnel Hole which was discovered and first explored in 1996.  Robbie, after twelve hours in bed declared himself fit.  We turned right (S) along the rift and swam to the end of the line at 68.2M, another deepest for Robbie.  Deco was done in the early dark on a sand slope in front of two large Brain corals and quite a selection of fish.  The next dive was the left (N) passage and again we found the line we had laid in 1996 was in good order, leading down to a mere 65.6M. Deco was made more interesting by a large crab sitting on one of the Brain corals "knitting".

Towards the end of the week we had two quiet calm sunny days, and as the morning sun and the tides coincided, we could see the Blue Hole effect of rising water over the coral heads.  A snorkeler was despatched to check out potential sites, and about six were considered possible and put on the GPS for further investigation.  The last three dives were devoted to some of these new holes, some were named after Alena, the crew member who did the first recce by snorkel, and two were named after Brian Kakuk who was once stationed at the mothballed Autec base on Highpoint Cay.  He could have swum out to some of the holes from the shore in ten minutes! Robbie and I tackled Ellenita No 3 (I am not sure we got the right spelling on the boat).  It was also called "The Cheese Grater" by those who looked at it!  We had a thrutch but failed, we only got down to 12M.  It had a maze of small passages at the top.  Brian had a go later and achieved 146ft (he dives in Imperial units!) he thought he had missed the way on.  We had a go at Ellenita No l  next. Murray and Kevin had tried with back-mounts and had managed about ten feet.  When we started the cave was still sucking gently, and our progress was hampered by our own silt - this was a virgin cave with a fair bit of soft silt on the floor of tightish bedding planes.  Robbie decided he had lost the way on and we turned, as we exited the flow changed and he saw a clean water passage on the right, but by then I was wriggling out of the entrance.  We had achieved a depth of 22M which in England would be quite promising, but in Blue Hole terms was a comparative failure!

Our last dive together was to be Brian's Remorse (North of Highpoint Cay).  Robbie and I started together, but having found a suitable dumping spot for the Nitrox cylinder, I looked around for him and saw him back at the RIB (he had bunged up ears from his bug of three days ago).  As he had the exploration reel, and surfacing would have seriously reduced my air supplies I carried on down and followed a descending line put in by BK a few minutes earlier.  (He was still on the other end of it).  This followed a steeply descending rift which narrowed here and there and was blocked by wedged rocks and coral.  These had made useful belay points for the line.  I was now quite deep, 70M+ so stopped my descent at a largish blockage.  I could see lights coming up from well below me and soon BK appeared.  We exchanged greetings and after an exchange of courtesy (after you; no after you!) we exited in convoy.  RW met us at 55M on our way back, having sorted out his ears. I did a deliberate stop of 2 minutes at 35M and carried on to the entrance shaft to decompress alongside BK- but due to his long deep dive he still had an hour to do when I left.  In fact we both did our dues at 6M where we had a comfortable lie, BK entertained us both by teasing a young Grouper from behind a rock-rather like a pussycat!

I was now to leave the boat and so there was a feverish washing of gear in fresh water and it was all hung up to dry and was packed with some twenty minutes to spare.  At Lisbon Creek we were ferried ashore to catch a taxi to our hotel on Andros, for a short stay.  Of course the phone on the quay would not work; but fortunately Leroy Bannister was at home in the Aqua Marine Club and we used his phone.  Leroy provided accommodation and transport for George Benjamin when he was diving the Blue Holes in the 60' sand 70's. Leroy is now a very old Bahamian, but still has a fund of anecdotes.

Well, that ended my diving holiday; I will attempt to persuade Audrey to describe her impressions.


Janet’s Last Munro - (after the Famous Scottish Poet McGonagall)

From Kangy King who caved with Janet in the 50's

This is the day that Janet has completed her last Munro
Even though she thought she might not have done so a short time ago.
The SMC who seem to have little else to do but revise their lists
Decided to find some more which had been lost in the Scottish mists.
Greta and Janet learnt about this to their consternation just as they were due to finish
And had to fit in a lot more weekends of climbing in order not to diminish
The success of this memorable day when we have all got together
To celebrate Janet's mountaineering triumph against allsorts of awful weather

Even though the SMC had thought that they had found a way
To lengthen the list from 277 to 284 they could not gain the day
Against a very determined lover of the Scottish scene
Who can remember all the mountains upon which she has ever been,
Though it must be said that her memory understandably was not too clear
About whether in 1955 or perhaps later she had climbed Am Basteir,
And I am happily the result of her honest doubt about her labour
Because Janet phoned me to ask if could remember climbing it with her.
This I must say I could not do because according to my log we hadn't
And so we decided to meet after 42 years to climb when it became apparent
That I, a woeful sassenach, needed to experience the splendours of a Northern height
Which I must admit exceed those of the South in quantity and also might.

The most part of the latest Munros were tops, not a separate massive,
And when Janet faces the challenge of the hills she is not passive.
These tops were usually on a splendid ridge which no one of sensibility could resist
So that is why she has respected her original schedule and we are able to get blathered
And enjoy the hospitality that has been given to us here
Both now and later on with things to eat to soak up all that beer.
So friends both recent and quite old now gathered to praise a feat
Which many would admit is a very fine one not easy to repeat
Please lift your glasses and drink a toast with me.
Here's to Janet, mountains, her good companions and present company!

CHEERS (Thank you Mr. McGonagall, R.S.K., September 1997)


White Pit - Prophecy Pot Extensions

By Tony Jarratt


Discovered on 4/11/92 White Pit has seen a great deal of effort put in to extend the cave over the last five year notably in Waist of Thyme, Brian's Attic, Talus IV and above Masters' Hall.  The one place that has received little attention since its discovery by Andy Sparrow on 1/12/92 has been Prophecy Pot - the lowest part of the cave.  It was visited by a large team the day after it was found and on the next day the writer and Trevor Hughes dug here, following loose rocks and gravel downwards, but decided it would be a long term job. A month later the writer returned with Rich Blake but they were again put off by the large amount of spoil to be moved.  Due to CO2 problems throughout the cave the bottom of the Pot was only rarely visited over the next few years and it was only after the proposed abandonment of Estelle's Anticlimax dig that it was once again investigated with a view to digging on 3/4/97.

Four days later the writer and Jeff Price were wielding a pick axe at the lowest part of the floor until thwarted by calcited breccia and boulders.  Probably due to the increased airflow from St Alactite's Hall air conditions were good and the expected mud flow from the Waist of Thyme spoil dump below Forty Backs had not materialised.

On 12/5/97 the writer, Rich Blake, Quackers Duck and Tony Boycott were laboriously hammering away at the floor when they were astonished to feel a distinct draught.  Three solo trips by the writer (one involving a dropped tackle bag, broken drill connections and an ear sliced open by a falling ammo box lid) gained several feet of depth and necessitated the use of bang on the calcited rocks.  A tarpaulin was used to deflect fly-rock from the formations in the Pot above.

He returned again on 2/6/97 with Jake Johnson and Tony to lower the dig another four feet to draughting holes in the floor.  A second, very noisy, charge was fired.  This was cleared on a solo trip on 16th and the dig was banged again the following day.

The 20th saw the writer and Stuart Sale clearing this and filling up the inlet passage at the base of the Pot with spoil leaving very little dumping space without encroaching on the gours opposite.  A return was made on 22/6/97 along with Estelle Sandford, Nick Mitchell, Mike Willett and Guy Munnings and despite a plague of light pox the dig reached over ten feet in depth.

The next day the writer installed four sections of scaffold pole in the hole and carried on digging downwards under a rain of large rocks peeling from the walls.  The draught and echo gave intimations of a large void nearby.

The first breakthrough came a day later when the writer, Estelle and Jake banged the floor and, following a fag break in Masters' Hall, returned through the rapidly dissipating fumes to dig down into a small and heavily calcited chamber below the choke. A couple of ways on needed bang to progress further.  More raining rocks and the onset of closing time saw a late exit from the cave by the elated diggers.

"Our great hopes of yesterday were not fulfilled but once the floor choke is removed I am sure we will be off again!" - A. Jarratt, MSS log, 2/12/92.

The delightfully clean, calcited boulders were drilled and banged on 25th 28th and 29th June, the latter trip being notable for the sudden increase in the outward draught just as we had finished laying the charge.  The writer, Tony B. and Estelle were suddenly enveloped in bad air pouring up from below the dig and were lucky to get out of the cave before they were affected too much. Despite this the charge was fired on the way out!  A temporary new lock was then put on the entrance and the cave left alone for two days until exploration fever stupidly got the better of the non medical pair of the trio!  Candles were taken down and they burned with a bright, yellow flame as the bang spoil was confidently cleared giving no indication of CO2.  Unfortunately other noxious gases (nitrous oxides?) were present and as a fresh charge was laid on the one remaining boulder preventing access to a 10 feet deep by 4 feet wide black hole these took effect on the diggers. Another slow and worrying retreat was made with lots of resting on the way out - at one point to fire the charge. Jane Jarratt was about to raise the alarm as the gassed ones staggered down the drove to West Cott.  Not wanting a third dose of fumes and despite knowing that the way on now had to be wide open, a longer period of time was left for them to clear.

The breakthrough trip came on 6th July when the writer, lubricated with Guinness got firmly wedged in the hole opened up by the last bang.  After being extricated by Tony B and Estelle, he widened the rift to allow the three of them plus Jake to squeeze down into a "walking sized" phreatic bore passage heading steeply down-dip for some 20ft to a choke with a nice grotto above.  At least there was plenty of room in the extension to open and imbibe the bottle of Vintage Brut brought along for the occasion! (note 1)

The following day Andy Sparrow and the writer dug at the choke until the poor air conditions necessitated the usual slow retreat.

On July 9th a larger team continued digging here in improved circumstances and two further trips on the 16th and 21st saw more rock and mud being dumped in the phreatic tube.

The next breakthrough came on 23rd July when the final boulders in the bottom of the calcited choke were barred out to reveal a 12ft climb down into a 15ft long, 6-8ft high phreatic alcove with the only feasible way on being back under the dodgy breakthrough choke.

Estelle, Rich and the writer returned on the following day with a scaffold pole and long crowbar to attack the choke which was eventually passed after some very hairy boulder redistribution to reach another large phreatic tunnel.  This went steeply down-dip, apparently directly to the Swildon's/Wookey Master Cave! Estelle was given the honour of the discovery but after only some 25ft or so the cry "Bastard, bastard" rent the air as a nasty little, un-diveable sump pool loomed up!  Cancel one Master Cave.

The air at this point is decidedly stale and the draught seems to have been lost in "Follow Through Choke" (tastefully named in honour of Richard who was at this time somewhere on the surface contemplating the purgative effects of a surfeit of Butcombe!)

The writer and Estelle returned on 3rd August to vainly probe the Choke in three different places - all of which seem to be dangerous long term options.  At this point we are some 250ft deep with about 300ft to go to the streamway.  The total length of the extension is around 100ft of quality passage, most of which was surveyed to BCRA grade 5c on 13th August by Trevor, Tony B and Estelle until the bad air drove them out.  The job was finished by the latter two and the writer on 30th November when more air samples revealed conditions to be much improved.  An attempt at digging the choke is being co-ordinated by Jake, to whom all volunteers should apply.


Sparrow. A. Feb. 1993 Descent 110 p.11 (Discovery)

Sparrow. A. Dec. 1992 Belfry Bulletin 466 46 (4) (Discovery)

Jarratt. T. Aug. 1993 Belfry Bulletin 468 47 (2) (Waist of Thyme)

Anon.    Jan. 1994 Belfry Bulletin 472 47 (5)  (Access procedure)

Jarratt. T. Mar. 1995 Belfry Bulletin 478 48 (3) (St. Alactite's Hall Simmonds V. & survey)

Jarratt. T. MSS Logs Vol. V 1992 - date.:

Hughes T. MSS Logs and unpublished survey and other diggers MSS logs.

Note 1   Tony Boycott took some air samples with a Drager analyser at the bottom of Prophecy Pot with the results as follows:

617/97             Way in              Way out

C02                  1.5%                 3%

CO                   Nil                    Nil

Nil                    Nil                    Nil

He suspected that the O2 level was lower than normal but had no means of measuring this.  He repeated the readings on 1317/97 (CO2 only):

                                                            Way in              Way out

            Bottom of Prophecy Follow         2%                   2%

            Through Choke                          4%                   4.5%


Wigmore - The Criticism has Landed

By Trevor Hughes

A recent e-mail to the editor from Graham Mullan (UBSS), prompted this computer illiterate handraulic surveyor to study the Wigmore Report and answer his queries in a personal reply and in these pages as the enclosed errata sheet.

The text of the report is, by and large, correct - the odd figure may be quibbled over in the statistical pages, but that is small beer (i.e. for the Wessex).  What lets the report down is the quality of presentation of the surveys.

Keith Savory's geological work is first class, but the survey plans/elevations have no scale. The map facing page 3 does not use the best available information on the downstream passages - The 1:200 sheet (available from Bat Products) gives the better overview.

The Surveys at the end of the report have an incorrect scale - it should have been 1:707 (i.e. 1:500 x -...12 as a result of the photo-reduction from A3 to A4).  The north point of the plan is drawn at 342.5° mag. and the downstream sump passages have been rotated without due explanation.  The foreshortening as a result of the radio location on 4th April 1993 has not been incorporated into the survey plan.

In my reply to Graham I referred him to the original published surveys and reminded him that source material is essential for serious research (I enclosed to him the BB 1:500 and original 1:200 master in my reply).  The small scale surveys used in a caving report are essentially a guide and not a means to an end, but I do feel that more care should have been taken in the preparation of the report's surveys and on that issue, Graham voices a very valid point.

I hope the errata sheet is self explanatory. If anybody is still in the dark then proffered beer and snuff will entice a more comprehensive reply - especially in the Hunters!!

Caving Report Number 23 - Wigmore Report Errata Sheet

Facing Page 3:

Delete: Not to meaningful scale - proportion only

Insert:   Scale 1:3125

Add:     Grid is Ordnance Survey, North point is O/S.

Facing Page 12:

Insert:   Scale = 1:300

Facing Page 13:

Insert:   Scale" = 1:300 N (mag. 1991) = Page long axis

Between Pages 13 and 14:

Insert:   Scale" 1:320

Facing Page 24:

Delete: Scale 1:500

Insert:   Scale 1:707 (141mm reps 100m)

Facing Rear Cover:

Delete: Scale 1:500

Insert:   Scale 1:707


1.                  North point as drawn is 17.50 west of N (mag 1991)

2.                  The downstream passages from sump one have been rotated to fit the page.  The major orientation is 0800 mag.

3.                  The length of the passages/sumps does not take into account of the radio-location carried out 34m downstream of sump 9.



·        In a Tokyo Hotel:  Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please.  If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read notice.

·        In another Japanese hotel room:  Please to bathe inside the tub.

·        In a Bucharest hotel lobby:  The lift is being fixed for the next day.  During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

·        In a Leipzig elevator:  Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.

·        In a Belgrade hotel elevator:  To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor.  If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor.  Driving is then going alphabetically by national order. 

·        In a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.

·        In a hotel in Athens:  Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 AM daily.

·        In a Yugoslavian hotel:  The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.

·        In a Japanese hotel:  You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

·        In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery:  You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

·        In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers:  Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.

·        On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:  Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

·        On the menu of a Polish hotel:  Salad a firm's own make; limpid red beat soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people's fashion.

·        In a Hong Kong supermarket:  For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service. 

·        Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop:  Ladies may have a fit upstairs.

·        In a Rhodes tailor shop:  Order your summers suit.  Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation. 

·        Similarly, from a Soviet Weekly:  There will be a Moscow Exhibition of Arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two years.

·        In an East African newspaper:  A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.

·        In a Vienna hotel:  In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.

·        A sign posted in Germany's Black Forest:  It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.

·        In a Zurich hotel:  Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.

·        In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist:  Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

·        A translated sentence from a Russian chess book:  A lot of water has been passed under the bridge since this variation has been played.

·        In a Rome laundry:  Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.

·        Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand:  Would you like to ride on your own ass?

·        On the faucet in a Finnish washroom:  To stop the drip, turn cock to right.

·        In the window of a Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.

·        On the box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong:  Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life.

·        Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan: Stop:  Drive Sideways.

·        In a Swiss mountain inn: Special today -- no ice cream.

·        In a Bangkok temple:  It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.

·        In a Copenhagen airline ticket office:  We take your bags and send them in all directions.

·        On the door of a Moscow hotel room:  If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.

·        In a Norwegian cocktail lounge:  Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

·        At a Budapest zoo:  Please do not feed the animals.  If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.

·        In the office of a Roman doctor:  Specialist in women and other diseases.

·        In an Acapulco hotel:  The manager has personally passed all the water served here.

·        In a Tokyo shop: Our nylons cost more than common, but you'll find they are best in the long run.

·        From a Japanese information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner: Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.

·        From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo:  When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.

·        Two signs from a Majorcan shop entrance: English well talking.    Here Speeching American.


The Bleadon and Hutton Caverns, West Mendip

A re-assessment

by David J. Irwin and Christopher Richards


Each of the known sites on Hutton Hill, near Weston-super-Mare, is defined and placed in their historical context. Details of previously unrecorded events during the 1970s are given.

In modern times the naming and association of Hutton Hill caves to historic accounts has been confused and frequently misleading.  It came about following the discovery of three caves on Hutton Hill in 1970, 1973 and 1974 by the Axbridge Caving Group and Archaeological Society (ACG & AS). Each cave was subsequently extended on occasion by the Group until work ceased in 1976.  At the time of the opening of each site the ACG & AS thought that they had relocated the two long lost Hutton caverns first recorded and excavated by Alexander Catcott [1725-1779] in 1757.  The earliest of the two discoveries, known by a succession of names, was later identified to be the lost Bleadon Cavern and it was also soon realised, as a result of extensive research by Richards and Shaw, that the site known as Hutton Cavern (1973) was not the lost bone site but a previously unrecorded cave.  None of the caves relate to Catcott's notes and the numerous names by which these sites were subsequently known led to serious confusion.  Details of the fourth Hutton Cavern site, not associated with the Catcott caves, discovered in 1974 by ACG & AS are given for the first time in this paper.  The 1970 and 1973 caves are correctly listed in the Mendip cave guidebooks as Bleadon Cavern (note1) (ST35/3606.5813) and Hutton Cavern (ST35/3603.5816) respectively.(note 2,3)  Incorrect naming of these caves in other published material has led to the current muddle.  The caves are discussed separately and a bibliography is given for each is given in Appendix 1.


Five caves are known to exist on Hutton Hill in the immediate vicinity of Maytree Farm and to avoid further confusion they will be designated Hutton Cavern -1, Hutton Cavern - 2, Hutton Cavern - 3, Hutton Cavern - 4 and Bleadon Cavern.

Hutton Caverns -1 and - 2, were opened by ochre miners in the 18th century and recorded by Alexander Catcott following a visit on the 10th June 1757.  Both sites are now lost.

Hutton Cavern - 3 (ST35/3605.5816) is described in Barrington and Stanton.  The entrance to this cave was sealed on instructions of the landowner in the late 1980s.

Hutton Cavern - 4 (ST35/3506.5818) were opened by ACG & AS in 1974 but the entrance was sealed by ACG & AS in the same year.

The fifth site is now known to be the lost Bleadon Cavern (ST35/3606.5813 )

A sixth site, not associated with the group just identified but has a similar name, is Hutton Hill Hole (ST35/3424.58l4).(note 4)  This was first opened in 1994 by the Bracknell and District.

Caving Club/ACG, (note 5) and is a separate site lying some half mile to the west in Hay Wood and is not considered further in these notes.


Hutton Cavern -1

A certain Mr. Turner of Loxton (note 6) sent Catcott a small collection of Elephant's teeth & bones which made him aware of a bone 'pit' on Hutton Hill then recently opened by the ochre miners.  Catcott received the bones sometime between 27th August 1756 when he returned from a visit to Tenby in South Wales and the 23rd October 1756.  On this date Catcott wrote a letter to a Mr. Price which was subsequently published in the Gentleman's Magazine? (note 7) In it Catcott explained that he intended to excavate at the site at Hutton in the near future.  The planned excavation was delayed until 10th June 1757 when he travelled from Bristol to Hutton with his friend and companion, Mr. Gore.

Catcott and Gore entered the cave with the miner who had found the bones and by the end of the expedition Catcott had gathered together a sizeable collection of specimens. (note 8) During that day they met William Glisson, (note 9) an ochre miner from Loxton with whom Catcott was already associated following his visit to Loxton Cavern during the previous month.  Glisson informed the two men that the mining activities on Hutton Hill had commenced about 1739-1740.  He added that during the course of that time the miners had opened up a number of similar holes.  Catcott entered in his diary' ... The whole hill is full of Swallet holes.'

In the first edition of Catcott's.  A Treatise on the Deluge [1761] the bone site at Hutton is not mentioned for he had concentrated his literary efforts on an explanation and proof of the Deluge as told in the Scriptures. (note 10)

It appears that it was not until about 1761 that Catcott wrote in some detail of his visit. (note 11) This was in a letter to an unknown recipient. (note 12) Seven years later Catcott published a supplement to the 'Treatise' in which the first published account of the cave is given. (note 13) Hutton Cavern was also included in the account of his visit to the cave in the 1768 edition of the Treatise and which has been reprinted on a number of occasions.

The cave had been entered at a depth of about 25ft where a 20ft square bedding chamber was entered floored with a mixture of ochre and bone material.  A three foot square tunnel led downwards for about 50ft into the second chamber, this being about 30ft x 15ft followed by a further descent of about 10-12ft into the final chamber.  Catcott, in a letter to an unknown recipient, noted that the there were great quantities of bone and that: (note 14)

…the whole exhibited an appearance not much unlike the inside of a Charnel House. We staid in this place two hours and being well provided with implements dug out a vast number & a great variety of bones and teeth and different species of Land Animals, but finding the Roof began to yield and the sides much weakened we thought it not advisable to continue any longer but proceeded to return ... but with full intent to revisit the place as soon as it could be secured and propped up with wood-work. Before this was effected the whole fill in and the cavity rendered inaccessible.

Catcott is not known to have returned to Hutton Hill and the cave remained 'lost' until about 1828 when David Williams considered the possibility of re-opening the site. Catcott's geological collection had by that date been given to the Bristol City Library.

Williams, Rector of Bleadon, a local geologist and archaeologist had carried out extensive geological excavations at the famous Uphill Cavern, near Weston-super-Mare and becoming aware of Catcott's work in the Hutton Hill bone caverns, made an attempt to locate the site.  By this time many of the 'pit' entrances had collapsed making it difficult to determine which pit was the entrance to the bone cavern.  Help was forthcoming in the form of Catcott's unpublished c.1761 (note 15) description of Loxton Cavern then in the possession of an old friend, Mr. Richardson of Farleigh which proved of great assistance to Williams. (note 16)  An approximate location of the entrance was given as being .

.. about three hundred paces South of the Gate of a field called Down acres in the parish of Hutton.

Finding scraps of bone Williams became hopeful that he might well have found the spot. However, to start a major excavation would be a costly exercise if it were not the Catcott cavern.  Luck was with Williams when an old miner, William Jones, confirmed that the pit in which he had found the bone was indeed the place; for his help he was paid one shilling by William Beard.  Permission was given to excavate and, in conjunction with William Beard, work began on the 19th of September 1828.  John Webb and Isaac Coleman were employed to re-open the cave and when it was successfully achieved the men were kept in partial employment carrying out exploratory work in the cave. (note 17)  Confirmation that the cave they had opened was that explored by Catcott is given in Williams' account (note 18) of 1829.

After working some time, we opened what may be termed three chambers in the fissure, the floor of the one above forming the roof of the room below, consisting of huge fragments of rock, that have sunk away and jammed themselves between the strata, their interstices being filled with ochreous rubble and bones.

Beard's Notebooks (note 19) contain further details of the excavation and on occasion a number of important visitors went to the site including George Henry Law [1761-1845], the Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1829 and Sir Richard Owen [1804-1892] in 1850. The bones were distributed to William Buckland, the Bishop and to various institutions. Many specimens found their way into the collections created by both Beard and Williams. (note 20) Williams wrote a note to Rutter stating that the excavation was brief, lasting only six weeks. However, though Williams may no longer have been involved at the site Beard continued, albeit intermittently, the search on Hutton Hill, employing both Webb or Coleman, on separate occasions, until January 1831.  When work ceased the entrance was allowed to collapse and its location lost and remains so to this day.


Fig 1 Elevation of Hutton Cavern  1 : published in both Rutter and Phelps.

On February 16th 1829, David Williams wrote to William Patteson, Vicar of Shaftesbury, outlining his work at various bone caverns in the West Mendip area including Banwell Bone Cavern, Uphill Cavern and Hutton Cavern.  The letter was published as a pamphlet by John Rutter later that year. (note 21)  It was this work that was the source material for Rutter's description of Hutton Cavern and other sites, in his 'Delineations' and the 'Banwell and Cheddar Guide', both published in 1829. (note 22,23)

The Rev. William Phelps (note 24) in his 'History and Antiquities of Somersetshire', published in two volumes, relied on the Catcott, 1768 edition of the 'Treatise'.  A survey of the cave was drawn by Williams (note 25) and a wood-cut prepared from it by William Barnes (note 26) and used in all the 1829 publications of Rutter and in Phelps' 1836 'History and Antiquities of Somersetshire'.  There have been several reprints of Catcott's 1768 description of Hutton Cavern, three of them appearing in British Caver. (note 27.28)  During the first half of the 20th century at least two searches were made to locate the lost Catcott cavern but to no avail. (note 29.30)

Hutton Cavern – 2

Fig 2. Surveyors notes for the Bleadon Cavern 1833 survey.  Reproduced with permission of the Somerset Record and Archive Service .

This site is lost and was first recorded by Catcott in his diary entry for the 10th June 1757.  In it he wrote: (note 31)

About 40 yards West from the last hole [Hutton Cavern - 1] was opened another, of a similar nature, with ochre, bones etc. - @ about as deep. From this was dug a large long head of an animal; about 3 or 4 feet long: 14 inches broad at the top or hind part & 3 inches at the snout.

A mention of this site is made in the 1768 accounts of Hutton Cavern - 1 by Catcott. (note 32)

One of the men, that had been at work in these pits, brought me a collection of small bones that he had found in a pit adjoining .. The same person assured me that before I came down, he had found in digging in the same place the head of a strange animal that he believed was near three feet in length.

A similar account appeared the same year in a Supplement to the 1761 Treatise. (note 33) Since that time no definite mention of this cave is known except for a passing mention in Richards' 1974 paper. (note 34)

Hutton Cavern - 3

Hutton Cavern - 3 was originally an old mineshaft that was excavated by the ACG & AS and first entered in 1973.  The only published description of this site appears in Barrington and Stanton. (note 35) Initially it was thought, again, to be the lost cave - the Hutton Cavern - 1 known to Catcott.  However, it soon became apparent that this was not the case and, although it had been extensively mined for ochre, no previous record of its existence has been found.  The distinctive three superimposed chambers in the cave known to Catcott, Beard and Williams were not present and further no bone material was found in the ochre and other deposits.  The following account places on record for the first time the sequence of exploration.

In March 1973 an old mine shaft was cleared of infill by ACG&AS. This led into a natural cave passage, steeply sloping, reaching a depth of about 30ft below the surface where there were extensions left and right.  The sloping passage, and the extensions, were heavily choked with natural breakdown and ochreous fill together with detritus thrown into the shaft. To the right (north-east) digging led to the discovery in June of a small passage level at first and then rising over rocks thrown down through a blocked up mine-shaft connecting with the surface.  To the left (south-west) excavation was hindered by overhanging masses of loose debris up against the bottom of a steeply dipping limestone bed.  In September work was abandoned and the entrance shaft into the dig re-filled.

In May 1974 a filled-up shaft lying a few feet south-south-west of the first was cleared and part way down a passage was found leading away in a south westerly direction but partially choked.  Digging led to a breakthrough after about 15 feet on 12 May into the roof of a roomy passage extending south-west for about 25 feet.  The work of the ochre miners was obvious and there were signs that a bone deposit had been dug out.  From the point of breakthrough, and around a corner, a roomy chamber headed north-east and sloped upwards to a choke that lay at the bottom of the shaft that had just been dug out.  The candle-smoked initials "D W" were observed in the roof of the chamber.  Was the Rev. David Williams responsible for these?

The diggers thought that they had relocated the upper chamber of Hutton Cavern 1, and decided to look for a way on beneath the mass of debris on the floor of the chamber.  To do this the shaft first dug out in March 1973 was re-opened for the lowest point of that dig lay beneath the debris in the new chamber.

Efforts were made throughout the rest of 1974, and in 1975, 1976 and 1977 to find a deeper extension, not only under the chamber but in other places in the system.  It was during 1976 and 1977 that the Hutton Scouts became involved.  The shaft first attacked in May 1974 was sunk deeper to connect with the chamber so spoil could be hoisted to the surface.  However, no extension was found and the idea that Hutton Cavern - 1 had been found, evaporated.


Fig 3. Bleadon Cavern 1833 survey.
Reproduced with permission of the Somerset Record and Archive Service

Hutton Cavern - 4

A site, not previously recorded in Speleo-literature, was discovered in 1974 and lay a short distance from Hutton Cavern - 3.  This is the first time details of its existence have been published.  Its length is about 100ft and an overall depth of 35ft.

The site lay about 17 yards north-east of Hutton Cavern - 3. Digging by ACG&AS began in December 1973 and an infilled mine shaft cleared.  At a depth of about 10 feet a breakthrough was made on the 13th January 1974.  A small passage, showing signs of blasting, sloped down into a domed phreatic chamber about 6ft high and with a floor paved with stones by the miners. In the floor was a shaft about 15ft deep neatly walled around at the top with "deads" sunk into an ochre pocket.  No bone deposits were observed.  The entrance shaft was filled in again on the 10th February 1974 by ACG&AS.


Fig 4. Bleadon Cavern 1972 survey

Bleadon Cavern [Or Hutton Cavern Ii]

At the centre of all the confusion is Bleadon Cavern.  When it was re-opened in 1970 it was thought to be the 'lost' Hutton Cavern -1 and understandably called Hutton Cavern. (note 36)  As a result of further investigation following the publication of the CRG Mendip Bibliography Part II prepared by Shaw, (note 37) it became clear that the site was not Hutton Cavern - 1.  In 1973 the discovery of Hutton Cavern - 3 threw the thought processes into turmoil. The following year after an intensive study of available sources Richards reassessed the historical evidence of the 1970 discovery and published a paper on the subject in the Wessex Cave Club Journal. (note 38)  In this he re-named the site Hutton Cavern II in the belief that it was the second site excavated by Beard and Williams in 1833 and known to them as the Second Cavern on Hutton Hill as well as it being known as Bleadon Cavern.  Richards, though, went further and allied this site to the second site outlined by Catcott.

…we do not have the classical Lost Cavern of Hutton but we have re-found the lesser of the two caverns no discovered at about the same time (c.1740)…

No evidence has been found to suggest that this is the second Catcott cave, even though it had previously been entered by the ochre miners, other than assuming that only three caverns were known to exist at the time of Catcott's visit.  This must be wrong for the Glisson evidence shows that a number of caves had been found between c.1740 and 1757.  It could be any of them.

However, the matter did not rest there.  Confirmation that the site was the lost Bleadon Cavern came as a result of a study of a cave survey residing in the archive collection at the Somerset Record Office that had been produced in January 1833.  This survey was compared with that produced by ACG & AS shortly after the cave was opened and similarities were recognised by Trevor Shaw. (note 39)  The cave had been finally proved to be the re-discovery of Bleadon Cavern [or Beard's Second Cavern] a site first opened between c.1740, and as will be shown, not later than 1746, and excavated for the first time in 1833 by Beard and Williams.

During the exploration of the site a lower series was found. This was a new discovery unknown to the pre-20th century explorers.

Bleadon Cavern is unique from the other known Hutton Hill caves in that the cave plan area straddles the boundary of the parishes of Hutton and Bleadon and was known by this name simply because the entrance to the cave lay in Bleadon Parish.  During the Beard-Williams excavation two entrances were opened, the first in Hutton Parish.  This proved difficult to remove the bones so Beard ordered a second shaft to be opened - this lay in Bleadon Parish.  The 'Hutton' entrance was then sealed and re-opened by ACG & AS in 1970. The Bleadon entrance has not been re-opened but its location is known from underground evidence.  Relating this site to the 18th century discoveries by the ochre miners is difficult.  It may well be one of the many caves discovered before Catcott visited the area or it could be the second 'pit' noted in his diary [Hutton Cavern - 2]. All that is known is that Catcott's second cave [Hutton Cavern - 2] is 40 yards west of Hutton Cavern - 1 but as the latter site is lost there is no fixed point from which to start measuring. However, what is fact is that the cave had been worked by the ochre miners for the remains of a candle and smoke-marked date of 1746 were found by the ACG & AS explorers.  Thus the cave had to have been found between c.1740 and 1746 based up on Glisson's evidence.

On the 4th of January 1833 Beard commenced work on the 'second cavern' or Bleadon Cavern and worked at the site in two sessions.  The first was from 4th January- 2nd February 1833, and on the 15th January John Heal of Shipham was employed to produce a survey of the cave for which he was paid five shillings.  At the end of the first session Beard entered the following into his account book:

2nd Febry 1833
Paid Isaac Coleman for 6 days work        £ -        9          0 [nine shillings]
Gave him [Isaac Coleman] to have some Beer when I
finished my researches at Hutton & Bleadon hill where
I discovered a Multitude of bones             £ -        1          0 [one shilling]

Beard also knew the cave as the Second Cavern: (note 40)

Friday the 4th of Janry 1833.  I discovered the second cavern of Bones at Hutton hill.

Much material was removed and at the end of the first excavation Beard had amassed a sizeable collection and of sufficient importance that Buckland thought it necessary to visit Banwell to view them. Beard records the visit and identifies the landowner's name that is indecipherable on the survey of the cave.

Also on Friday the 26th of April 1833.  The Revd. Dr Buckland and the Revd D. Williams and the Revd. Mr. Lunn and Mr. Hyde Whalley paid me a visit to see my collection and last discovery which extended from the Ochre Pitts on a part of Hutton Hill under the boundary wall into Mrs. Fears allotment in the parish of Bleadon the distance of about 250 feet they was much pleased to see it.

Indeed was they?

Work recommenced again on 7th September and finally ceased on the 22nd March 1834. (note 41)

Miscellaneous Sites

Though Catcott discusses Hutton Cavern - 1 in his various papers he added that subsequent to his 1757 visit that Glisson had found several other bone bearing pits but none were identified; the subsequent discoveries by ACG & AS are probably some of these. (note 42)


Strangely Phelps makes no mention of Bleadon Cavern though he records the activities of 1828 in Hutton Cavern -1 based on Rutter.  The discovery of bones in this cave are referred to in many local topographical and guide-books of the middle 19th century.

Buckland (note 43) reprints the Catcott 1768 account of Hutton Cavern - 1 and Dawkins (note 44) mentions it as an important bone site.  A problem is found in Knight's (note 45) account of the Beard-Williams excavation in Bleadon Cavern - this site is confused with the bone deposits found in a quarry close to the village.  The date given in Knight for the discovery of Hutton Cavern - 1 is given as 'about the year 1650' and should be discounted.

Balch too, totally confuses the situation in that to his knowledge there was only one bone site in the area and that in a local quarry.  Balch (note 46,47) compounds the problem by merging the bone finds from both Bleadon Cavern and that from the quarry which he calls Bleadon Cave.  It occurs in his Mendip: its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters fold-out sheet entitled Man and the Wild Beasts on Mendip.

Gough in his Mines of Mendip uses Rutter and Knight as his historical sources and a reference is taken from Catcott's Diaries of tours.  Bryant & Philpot use Rutter and Phelps for their source material. Finally, the listing of Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites published in 1989 should be amended to associate various papers to the correct sites. (note 48)


Bleadon Cavern

Anon, 1970, Mendip News (Hutton Cavern) Cer SS Ntr 6(24)4; brief note on reopening Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211pp, illus. figs, surveys

Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, Mendip: the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar: Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

Haines-Nutt, R. Frank and Mulvey, Christopher, 1963, Not in Barrington - or Oldham WCC Jnl 7(90) 199-207(Jun)

Irwin, David J. and Jarratt, Anthony R., 1993, Mendip Underground: a caver's guide [3rd ed] Castle Cary : Mendip Publishing, 240pp, illus., surveys, maps

Knight, Francis A. 1902, The Sea-Board of Mendip. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xiv + 495pp, maps, illus., figs

Richards, Christopher, 1970, The lost cavern of Hutton - its rediscovery: a preliminary account. ACG Ntr 115-118(Sep), survey

Richards, Christopher, 1971, Notes on the 1970 Hutton Cavern Survey. ACG Ntr 90-91(Dec) Richards, Christopher, 1972, Notes on the 1972 edition ofthe Hutton Cavern survey. ACG Ntr 2526(Jul)

Richards, Christopher, 1972, Hutton Cavern : a reconsideration in the light of recent discoveries. WCC Jnl 12(142)110-118(Aug), survey

Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Mendip Cave Bibliography. Part II Books, pamphlets, manuscripts and maps, 3rd century to December 1968. CRG Trans. 13(3) viii + 226pp(Jul)

Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Hutton Cavern No.2: a plan of 1833. WCC JnI12(144)199-200(Dec), survey

Bleadon Cavern and Hutton Cavern - 1

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1865, Notice of carnassial and canine teeth from the Mendip caverns, probably belong to Felis antiqua. Gool Mag, Ser 1 2,43 Read before the Brit Assoc. - ref also Rep Brit Assoc (34(1864)

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1869, Rodentia ofthe Somerset caves [abstract] Q Jnl Geol Soc 25,444 Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1869, On the rodentia ofthe Somerset caves. SANHS Proc 15(2)5157(1868-1869), figs

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1870, On the rodentia of the Somerset caves. Q Jnl Gool Soc 26,124-131, fig

Stoddart, W.W., 1870, The quaternary deposits ofthe Bristol neighbourhood. Proc Bristol Nats Soc, Ser 2 5,37-43, map

Hutton Cavern - 1

Anon, 1870, Beedle's popular visitors' handbook of Weston- super-Mare; with walks, rides, and drives in the neighbourhood. Weston-super-Mare: T. Beeble, 128pp, map, illus. Bristol Ref Lib Green Collection 7223 B.L. 16B2

Baker, W., 1850, Geology of Somerset SANHS Proc 1, 127-139 (1849-1850)

Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211pp, illus. figs, surveys

Balch, Herbert E., 1948, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. London: Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd., [vi] + 156pp, surveys, illus.

Bryant, T. Charles and Philpott, R. Antony, 1962, Hutton Cave. WCC Jnl 7(83)22-25, survey Catcott, Alexander, n.d., Description [sic] of Loxton Cavern. MSS. c.1761. Transcribed by c.J. Harford. Photocopy presented to Bristol Central Reference Library 1974 by Dr. H.S. Torrens, Dept. Geology, Keele University. 66ff 4to, illus. Originally belonging to Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.

Catcott, Alexander, 1969, [Hutton Cave - from Treatise on the deluge, 1768] Brit Cav 52,36-37 Knight, Francis A, 1902, The Sea-Board of Mendip.  London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xiv + 495pp, maps, illus., figs

Platten, Gerard [ed], 1948, Lost Mendip Caves Brit Cav 18,26-28

Oldham, Anthony D., 1963, The Caves of Mendip 2nd Edition. Additions, Errors, Corrections, Etc. WCC Jnl 7(88)153(Feb)

Sanford, W. Ayshford, 1864, Notice of carnassial and canine teeth from the Mendip caverns, probably belong to Felis antiqua (syn Pardus).  Rep Brit Assoc (34) Trans Sect, 69

Tratman. Edgar K., 1921, Field work Proc UBSS 1(2)95-97(1920/1921)

Williams, David, 1829, Some account of the fissures and caverns hitherto discovered in the western district of the Mendip range of hills comprised in a letter from the Rev. D. Williams ... to the Rev. W. Patterson. Shaftesbury: John Rutter, 16pp, surveys: mentioned. Ref Men Bib Pt II, No.867

Hutton Cavern - 1 and Hutton Cavern - 2

Catcott, Alexander, 1748, Diaries of tours made in England and Wales. MSS; 11 sheaf of loose papers, various sizes bound together. 17.5cm [1748-1774]. Sheaf 1 138p, sheaf 5 44ff : Bristol Ref. Library. B 6495. Strong Room IB3

Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A Supplement to a book, entitled a treatise on the deluge. Bristol: printed by Farley and Cocking, iv + 65pp, illus.

Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A treatise on the deluge ... London: printed for the Author by E. Allen, 421pp, illus.

Hutton Cavern - 3

Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, Mendip : the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar: Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

Hutton Cavern - 4

No details of this site has been published

Hutton Hill caves - unidentified

A[   ] ,F S, 1859, Mammalian Remains Geologist 2,219-220: extract from 1756 letter by Peter

Collinson to Gents Mag 1757, p.220 - discovery of Elephant's teeth

Stanton, William 1., 1950, Extracts from a diary of a schoolboy in Mendip. Part 1. Brit Cav 21,6572(Winter)


Our thanks to Chris Hawkes for the loan of a copy of Phelps, 1836, and to Ray Mansfield whose comments were invaluable.

D.J. Irwin, Priddy, Somerset.

C. Richards, North Somerset Museum Service, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

30th August 1997

Revised by D.J. Irwin,

8th February 1998


1.                  Originally the site was called Maytree Cavern after the name of the adjacent farm - a name not now used. When the ACG & AS researches commenced it was thought that it was the second site mentioned in the Catcott diary account - hence for a time it was known as Hutton Cavern. It was later realised that the site was in fact the lost Bleadon Cavern.

2.                  Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, Mendip : the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar:

Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp, illus., maps

3.                  Irwin, David J. and Jarratt, Anthony R., 1993, Mendip Underground: a caver's guide [3rd ed] Castle Cary: Mendip Publishing, 24Opp, illus., surveys, maps

4.                  Norton, Michael, 1995, [Hutton Hill Hole] ACG Ntr [20](Summer/Autumn)

5.                  The Archaeological Society and the Caving Group decided to separate in 1976 for reasons relating to caving insurance. Since that time the caving section has been known as Axbridge Caving Group.

6.                  Possibly Rev. Turner, who was rector of Loxton at this time.

7.                  [Catcott, Alexander], 1757, [letter], Gentleman's Magazine Vol.27, Pt.1, p.199

8.                  Catcott, Alexander, 1748-1774, Diaries of tours made in England and Wales. MSS; 11 sheaf of loose papers, various sizes bound together. 17.5cm [1748-1774]. Sheaf 1138p, sheaf 5 44ff : Bristol Ref. Library. B 6495. Strong Room IB3

9.                  Catcott described Glisson as 'Lord Royal of the Hill'

10.              Catcott, Alexander, 1761, A treatise on the deluge ... London: Withers, xiii + 296pp, illus. general

11.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., Description [sic] of Loxton Cavern. MSS. c.1761. Transcribed by C.J. Harford. Photocopy presented to Bristol Central Reference Library 1974 by Dr. H.S. Torrens, Dept. Geology, Keele University. 66ff 4to, illus. Originally belonging to Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. The location of the Catcott original letter is unknown, presumably lost.

12.              Stephens, J., 1761, Proposals for printing by subscription a work entitled The Natural History of Somersetshire. [dated February 16th, 1761]

13.              Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A Supplement to a book, entitled a treatise on the deluge. Bristol: printed by Farley and Cocking, iv + 65pp, illus.

14.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., [as above]

15.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., [see above]

16.              Williams, David, 1829, Some account of the fissures and caverns hitherto discovered in the western district of the Mendip range of hills comprised in a letter from the Rev. D. Williams ... to the Rev. W. Patterson. Shaftesbury : John Rutter, l6pp, surveys

17.              The first shaft opened was not the bone cavern but a passage leading away from it. The original shaft was subsequently found but considered unsafe and so a third was opened up. These are shown in the survey that appears in the Williams (1829), Rutter (1829) and Phelps (1836) publications cited elsewhere in this paper.

18.              Williams, David, 1829, [see above]

19.              [Beard, William]. 1824-1865. [Manuscript Note Books on the caves at Banwell, etc.] Taunton: Somerset Record Office, ref. no. D/P/ban 23/25.

20.              Bishop Law's geological collection was sold at auction in Weston-super-Mare on the 27th September 1860.  The fate of this collection is unknown.  The Beard and Williams' collections were purchased separately by the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1864 and 1851 respectively.  The collections are now housed at the Somerset County Museum, Taunton but are not currently on view for the condition of the bones is in need of urgent restoration work. This is in the hands of specialists from the Natural History Museum specialists.

21.              Williams, David, 1829, [see above]

22.              Rutter, John, 1829, Delineations of the north western division of the county of Somerset, and of its antediluvian bone caverns ... London: Longmans, xxiv + 349pp, map, illus.

23.              Rutter, John. 1829, The Banwell and Cheddar Guide ... Shaftesbury: J. Rutter, [iv] + 78pp, surveys, illus.

24.              Pelps, William, 1836 and 1839, The History and Antiquities of Somersetshire. London: printed for the author by J.B. Nichols and Son. 2 vols [Vol. 1 published in 1836, Pt.1 - xiii + 192pp, Pt.2, vii + 599pp and Vo1.2 published in 1839, [3] + 272pp], maps, surveys, illus.

25.              Williams, David, 1829, [see above]

26.              Richards, Christopher, 1971, Notes on the 1970 Hutton Cavern Survey. ACG Ntr 90-91(Dec)

27.              Catcott, Alexander, 1966, [Hutton Cave - from Treatise on the deluge, 1768] British Caver (43) 15-19

28.              Catcott, Alexander, 1969, [Hutton Cave - from Treatise on the deluge, 1768] British Caver (52)36-37

29.              Tratman. Edgar K., 1921, Field work Proc UBSS 1(2)95-97(1920/1921)

30.              Duck, Jack W., 1937, Report for 1937 MNRC Rep (30)45-51, survey

31.              Catcott, Alexander, 1748-1774, [see above]

32.              Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A treatise on the deluge ... London: printed for the Author by E. Allen, 421pp, illus.

33.              Catcott, Alexander, 1768, A Supplement [as above]

34.              Richards, Christopher, 1972, Notes on the 1972 edition of the Hutton Cavern survey. ACG Ntr 25-26(Jul)

35.              Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William, 1977, [see above]

36.              For a time it was known as Maytree Cavern after its close proximity of a small-holding - Maytree Farm.

37.              Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Mendip Cave Bibliography. Part n Books, pampWets, manuscripts and maps, 3rd century to December 1968. CRG Trans. 13(3) viii + 226pp(Jul)

38.              Richards, Christopher, 1972, Hutton Cavern: a reconsideration in the light of recent discoveries. WCC Jnl 12(142) 110-118( Aug), survey

39.              Shaw, Trevor R., 1972, Hutton Cavern No.2: a plan of 1833 .. WCC Jnl 12(144)199-200(Dec), survey

40.              [Beard, William]. 1824-1865, [see above]

41.              [Beard, William]. 1824-1865, [see above]

42.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., [see above]

43.              Buckland, William, 1823, Reliquiae Diluvianae. London: John Murray. 1st ed., vii + [i] + 303pp, maps, surveys, illus. [1824, 2nd edition: no text change, identical pagination]

44.              Dawkins, W. Boyd, 1874, Cave Hunting. London: Macmillan & Co., xxiv + 455pp, maps, surveys, illus.

45.              Knight, Francis A., 1902, The Sea-Board of Mendip. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., xiv + 495pp, maps, illus., figs

46.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211pp, illus. figs, surveys

47.              Balch, Herbert E., 1948, Mendip - its swallet caves and rock shelters. London: Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd., [vi] + 156pp, surveys, illus.

48.              Mansfield, Raymond W. and Donovan, Desmond T., 1989, Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip, Bath and Bristol areas. Recent bibliography. Proc UBSS 18(3)367-389(Nov)





Meghalaya  1998  - Synopsis


03 February - 08 March: Georg BAUMLER, Susanne Annette, BECHER McNAB, Eleazar 'Leo' BLAH, Tony BOYCOTT, Jenni,  A. BROOKS, Simon James BROOKS, Ian CHANDLER, Sijon DKHAR, Spindro DHKAR, Gregory DIENGDOH, Undsey DIENGOOH. Clive W. DUNAI, Richard FRANK, H. Daniel GEBAUER, Kirmm C. HIWOT, PASSAH, Tony JARRATT, Brian JOHNSON, Refulgent KHARNAJOR, Brian D. KHARPRAN DALY, Uwe KRUGER, Kyrshan MITHUN, Thilo MULLER, Fairweather W. MYLLIEMNGAP, Langspah RYNGKHUN, Gurjinder SINGH, Sher SINGH, Donbok SYIEMUEH, Andy TYLER, Valery VALVULA, Raphael WARJRI, Yv0 WEIDMANN.

Guides & Informants: Kham AA (Chiehruphi), Nigel AA (Chiehruphi), Miniren HAMON (Tongseng), Lucky DKHAR (Chiehruphi), Sijon Dkhmr (Nongjri), Kynsai JONES (Cherra Pdengshakap), Robert LAL (Chiehruphi), Wikyn L YNGDDH (Thangskai), Zuala RALSEM. (Khaddurn). Langspah RYNKHUN (Nongjin), Stingson SH1ANGSHAi (Chiehruphi).

date from

date to



1997- length



vertical range




East Khasi Hills District








Dam Um (Nongthymmai)
















Phyllut No.2








Rong Umso ( Ochre River Cave)







Soh Pang Bnait ( Thornapple Cave)































































Mawkanong (W. Thylong)
















Wah Sir








Wah Synrem








Wah Thylong








Jainta Hills District























Lumshnong: Thangskai








Lumshnong: Village








Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 1







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 2a







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 2b







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 3







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 4







Lumshnong: Mynkre








Lumshnong: Mynkre

Moolih No. 2







Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 1







Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 2








Paltan Puok







Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Pdieng Salah








Pile Theng Puok







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi








Lumshnong: Thangskai

Romai Synhin







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi









Sielkan Puok















Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Synrang Pamaiang







Lumshnong: Mynkre

Thloochrieh ( Monkey Cave)







Lumshnong: Chiehruphi
















Lumshnong: Chiehruphi









Umlawan No.3








Umlawan No.4








Umlawan No.5








Umlawan No.6







Lumshnong: Thangskai








Lumshnong: Musianglamare









Urhulu Puok







Accumulated length of the spring surveys:






Caving in the Abode of the Clouds - Part III

Synopsis of 1998 Expedition to Meghalaya, North East India - by Simon Brooks (Orpheus CC) March 1998

Between the 11th of February and 8th March 1998 a team of eight cavers from the UK, five from Germany, a Swiss caver and members of the Shillong (N.E. India) based Meghalaya Adventurers Association completed another successful expedition to the State of Meghalaya in North East India.

During the course of the expedition a total of 27 new caves were explored and several existing caves extended to yield a total of just under 26 km of new cave passage, taking the total length of surveyed cave passage in the State of Meghalaya to 95 km.

The expedition divided its time between four separate areas, namely: Cherrapunjee and Nongjri in the East Khasi Hills; Lumshnong; and the Lukha Valley in the Jaintia Hills.  In the Nongjri area, Krem Lymput, partly explored in 1997, was extended to 6.5 km in length, establishing it as India's second longest cave.  Several other smaller caves were also explored.  In the Lumshnong area, Krem Kotsati-UmLawan was extended by another 2 km to 21.2 km in length, further reinforcing its status as India's longest and deepest cave.  To the north of Lumshnong, in the vicinity of the village of Musianglamare, significant extensions were made to Umsynrang extending it from its 1997 length of 1.7 km to a new length of 4.8 km.  In the same village, Synrang Pamiang was extended from 1.6 km to just over 6.2 km in length, making it India's third longest cave.  The current end of Synrang Pamiang is wide open, being a canyon style stream passage some 5m wide and up to 30m height with considerable potential for further extensions.  However, the cave is beginning to present logistical problems in that it is now 5 hours of hard caving from the entrance to the end of the surveyed passage.

Following the brief reconnaissance made to the Lukha Valley in 1997, the area was revisited, revealing considerable speleological potential.  One of the main finds here was Piel Theng Puok which proved to be a fantastic resurgence river cave, situated in a small gorge at the head of a 50m high tufa waterfall.  This stunning cave is characterised by huge, square-sectioned river passage up to 20m wide and 30m in height and never less than 10m by 10m.  The passage is punctuated by massive calcite gours/dams of up to 6m high.  These latter features create large lakes and necessitated over 500m of swimming in the first 2.5 km of passage.  With the huge catchment area, the impressive size of the passage at the final point, numerous unexplored side passages, and the fact that only one third of the distance to the assumed sink has been found, the potential for extending the system is considerable.  Piel Theng Puok is definitely one of the most impressive Indian River caves found to date.

As has been the style of previous expeditions to Meghalaya, equipment (including surveying instruments) has been left with the Meghalaya Adventurers in order to assist them with further cave exploration.  Plans are already being made for a return visit by two teams in January/February 1999 and February/March 1999.


A Map of the Three Streams which enter St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

Surveyed By Roger And Frances Stenner In 1996.


Frankie and I were in the final stages of making the survey, in head-high rushes near the tramway. After this time there wasn't much need to talk much, we were just getting on with the work.  A family - couple, two small boys and a big dog - came by, and stopped to watch.  Of course the adults and the older boy were far too reserved to say anything, but the smaller boy's curiosity got the better of him, and he asked us what we were doing.  We told him, and the father couldn't hold his tongue.  "Why don't you just buy a map?"  Why indeed!  Up-to-date large scale maps of the area are available in theory, but the price is high enough to make them effectively unavailable.  The 1:2500 ("25 inch" series) O.S. map of ST 5450 and ST 5550, published in 1963, showed only two of the three streams connected with the cave.  The 6" to 1 mile O.S. map, ST 55 SW, published in 1961, showed only one stream, which looked like the last part of Ladywell stream tagged onto a piece of creative fiction.  So even in the days when maps were still available, the situation was unsatisfactory.

In 1967, when I needed to show the location of the three streams, the only option was to survey them myself. Since I only needed to illustrate the streams to the south of the line through Plantation Swallet and Maypole Overflow Corner, the surveying was limited to this area.  The map was included in a description of the hydrology of the cave (Stenner, 1968).  A later drawing, extended to include the streams as far as the Mineries Pool, was made after re-plotting the 1967 data at the scale of 1:2500.  This map was included in the draft of Caving Report No.13 Part L, which was never published.  To illustrate the surface hydrology, the St. Cuthbert's Report contained a map which included incorrect features from the 1961 6":1 m O.S. map (Irwin, 1991, Fig.7, p.64).  At some time between 1985 and 1991, Plantation Stream changed its course. From being a mess, the map situation had become an obsolete mess.

The description of the surface hydrology, also written up in the draft caving report, had likewise become obsolete. Stream studies needed to describe the current situation began in 1994, and once again a map was needed.


In 1996, Frankie and I began surveying the streams, using Suunto gear belonging to the club, and a Fibron tape (a genuine Cuthbert's veteran!).  Closed traverses created a framework on which to hang the data.   As to calibration, something new was tried. I took one wall corner near the Belfry, and a second near Fair Lady Well, both of which were clearly identified on the 1963 1:2500 map.  The justification for using these two wall corners will be examined later.  The plan co-ordinates of the two wall corners were measured on the map to 1/4 m.  The angle needed to yield the best closure from the first corner to the second was the compass correction for the day.  Spreadsheets by Lotus were used for all the computations.  Four different routes from one corner to the second were surveyed, each one in a single day.  One of them contained a mistake, but the other three gave mutually consistent data.

Early attempts by Ellis to survey in the St. Cuthbert’s Lead-works in Priddy Minery failed because of magnetic disturbances.  In the 1967 survey and in the present survey, the method described for detecting and avoiding magnetic anomalies (Irwin and Stenner, 1977) was used successfully.


25” Map of the Cuthbert’s area


V St. Cuthbert’s Swallet Entrance Shaft

1.                  Sample site, Mineries Pool outflow stream

2.                  Sample sitte, St. Cuthbert’s stream main sink.

3.                  Sample site, Fair lady Well.

4.                  Maypole Sink.

5.                  Intermittent.

6.                  Maypole overflow corner.

7.                  Intermittent tributary complex.

8.                  Aqueduct.

9.                  Source of former (pre 1985) Cuthbert’s stream.

6” Map of the Cuthbert’s area


8 St. Cuthbert’s Swallet Entrance Shaft

1.                  Sample site, Mineries Pool outflow stream

2.                  Sample sitte, St. Cuthbert’s stream main sink.

3.                  Sample site, Fair lady Well.

4.                  Maypole Sink.

5.                  Intermittent.

6.                  Maypole overflow corner.

7.                  Intermittent tributary complex.

8.                  Aqueduct.

9.                  Source of former (pre 1985) Cuthbert’s stream.

10.              Former Pool, now breached.


Seven closed traverses were examined, and the results are shown in the following table.  Lengths are in metres.




Horiz. Misc.

Vert. misc.

Slope Misc.



















































The method developed for the St. Cuthbert's Survey for closing networks (Irwin and Stenner, 1975) was used.  Seven survey routes from the first corner to the second were calculated and tabulated. The resulting co-ordinate changes, given in the following table, show that route 7 contained a substantial error. Details of the seven routes led to the identification of the section of route 7 which contained the error, and the misclosure error was distributed along this section.  Spot heights were calculated using the height of the top of the Entrance Shaft.  The 1967 survey data were recalculated, and were consistent with the new data.





Mean change of  6 routes (metres)

Standard deviation of  6 routes

Change given by route 7

Difference between route 7 and Mean

Change from 1963 1:2500 O.S. map

Difference from Mean



















While the survey was being made, the positions of present and former stream courses were measured. The intention was to try to reconcile the map being made with the 1961 and 1963 maps, and with earlier maps, and hence to establish the sequence of the stream changes.  Copies of 6":1 m O.S. maps of 1883 and 1903, and the 1:2500 O.S. map of 1903 were also available.  During this stage of the work, Chris Richards of Weston-super-Mare (and Axbridge C.G.) gave me a photo-copy of a map which was probably made in about 1860, in connection with the Ennor/Barwell legal dispute which came to court in 1860.  The map shows, at a scale of 1:2500, the hydrology of the Chewton and Priddy Mineries. It included these features: Priddy Pot (=Potable?) Water Stream, Wheel Pit (at Maypole Overflow corner) Swallet (at Plantation Swallet) and another Swallet at Five BuddIes Sink.  The Mineries Pool did not exist, and upstream of its present position were two Reservoir Ponds, supplying water to the Washing Works near Five Buddles Sink.  The map showed the route of the stream in the valley under the Reservoir Ponds, so it is possible either that the ponds were relatively new in 1860, or that they were drained from time to time.  Efforts to reconcile the information in the various maps will now be discussed.


Fair Lady Well and the Ladywell Stream were shown (as Spring and Priddy Pot Water Stream) on the 1860 map. From the spring to close to Plantation Swallet, the stream followed a bowed route, slightly to the east of the present route.  Beyond Plantation Swallet, the map of the sinuous course can be superimposed perfectly on the present map of the stream, drawn to the same scale.  When, in about 1850, Ennor took on the lease of the Priddy Minery (later renamed St. Cuthbert's Leadworks) one of the conditions stated that the Priddy Pot stream must not be used for mineral purposes (Tilly, 1967, p3). Before being diverted, Ladywell Stream would have flowed into the depression and into the cave; so in about 1850 the Ladywell stream was already an artificial feature.  Close to Plantation Swallet the 1860 map showed Priddy Pot stream crossing a stream to Plantation Swallet, so a Ladywell aqueduct must have been in place then.  The date when the Ladywell stream course was constructed is not known.  Perhaps parish records may contain relevant information. The reason why the stream followed a sinuous course from Plantation Swallet to the comer near Mr. Foxwell's Drive is straightforward; it followed the hydrological contour around the depression. This shows that the fundamental geography of the depression has not changed since before 1860.  The impression given by the 1860 and 1883 maps, that the area between the Belfry and St. Cuthbert's Lead-works was featureless, is misleading.

In 1860, the stream from Fair Lady Well was shown to have been augmented by drainage from Chewton Minery. It would have been a larger stream than it is now.  Annual maintenance would have sealed leaks such as those which currently allow the stream to shrink so much between the source and the Belfry.  As late as 1954 the stream still reached Eastwater Lane, and vanished in a marsh on the far side of the road to Priddy Green. In its prime, it flowed as far as the field opposite the Queen Victoria Inn.  Since the new Belfry was built, water flowing from the Drinking Pond does not reappear on the surface.

The 1860 map showed five streams leaving the area around the present Mineries Pool.  The first was water from Fair Lady Well.  The second was drainage from a part of the Chewton Minery which joined water from Fair Lady Well, as described above.  The third flowed into the Priddy Minery, and sank in the position of the Maypole Sink, with overflow to the South.  The fourth also flowed into the Priddy Minery, to the east of the third stream, to the Washing Works, where it was joined by water captured by leets on the slopes of Stock Hill.  The fifth, Dr. Somers Course, led from an area near Fair Lady Well to the Wheel Pit near Maypole Overflow comer.  The present studies have failed to find the exact location of Dr. Somer's course; but from the comer, two courses were shown which can still be identified; west to Plantation Swallet, and east to St. Cuthbert's depression.

The history of the five streams following the construction of the Mineries Pool, and the later extension of the Chewton Minery tramway from the pool to the Priddy Minery smelter, is not clear.  By 1953, water from Fair Lady Well had been diverted into a new artificial course from the spring to close to Plantation Swallet, where it rejoined its earlier course. This is the present Ladywell Stream, as shown correctly on the 1963 1:2500 O.S. map.  Also by 1953, the water which had formerly made up the other four streams emerged from a single channel underneath the tramway.  This was Plantation Stream, which flowed in an artificial course (via a swampy pool about half-way) to Maypole Overflow comer, where it turned west into Plantation Swallet.  This stream was also shown correctly on the 1963 1:2500 O.S. map, but the 1961 6":1 m map was incorrect.  The sequence of changes between 1860 and 1963 is uncertain, and the new surveying has not removed the uncertainties.

The (approx.) century between 1860 and 1953 has given the most difficulties, when attempting to reconcile maps.  In the 1883 and 1903 maps, the depicted stream geography was different from that shown in the 1860 and 1963 maps.  Essentially the same single stream was shown in all three available maps. (Mineries Pool appeared first in the 1883 map, the tramway in the 1903 maps; locations of buddles in the depression, and small ponds associated with them, were different in all the maps).  The single stream shown in the 1883 and 1903 maps was also reproduced in the 6":1 m map of 1961.  In the 1:2500 map of 1903, Fair Lady Well was shown as a small stand-alone pool.  About 25 m to the south-east, a stream rose, close to the present Mineries Pool Outflow.  This stream followed a looping course to the south-east of the "1860" Priddy Pot stream, to close to Plantation Swallet (which was not shown in any form) from which location it continued, following the old Priddy Pot stream course (which was drawn much less sinuously than in the 1860 or the 1963 1:2500 maps, which may indicate a lack of care in draughts mans hip).  Just how this stream can be reconciled with the 1860 map or with the 1963 map is anyone's guess!  To take the 1903 map at its face value, if the Mineries Pool outflow was indeed mixed with the flow from Fair Lady Well and taken to Priddy as "potable water", the resulting water quality would have been dreadful. And if this was indeed the situation, the Pool Outflow stream was already leaving the valley.  So why was it necessary to divert this water into Plantation Swallet to drain the valley? Perhaps more information will come to light to clarify this muddle.

There is still ample evidence of a large number of minor (and some major) drainage channels in the area downstream of the Mineries Pool.  Evidence presented in connection with the Ennor/Hodgkinson legal dispute showed that at the time, large quantities of water were used by buddIes at the Priddy minery to concentrate ore-bearing material, that the process resulted in serious contamination of the Axe, and that flows of water entering swallets in the depression and Plantation swallet had been measured.  It seems likely that the outflow from the Mineries Pool could be diverted by means of sluice gates either to buddIes in the depression or to a route to Plantation Swallet.  After the conclusion of the legal dispute, which forbade the disposal of contaminated water into swallets, the water needed to prepare the ore was continually re-circulated.  For a number of years, valley floor material was smelted directly, with no pre-treatment, and the volume of slag generated by this process was substantial.  When the Chewton Minery tramway to the Mineries Pool was extended to the Priddy Minery, it covered the site of a group of buddles in the depression, and it also covered drainage routes from Stock Hill to the Priddy Minery.  The tramway bank incorporated a "siphon" for the outflow from the Mineries Pool.

Around 1900, the entire Plantation stream was diverted into the artificial course shown in the 1963 1:2500 map.  This work could not have been carried out without first diverting the Ladywell Stream from the course shown in the 1860 map, but this diversion could have been carried out at any time between 1860 and about 1900.  After the St. Cuthbert's Leadworks closed in 1908, annual maintenance of the Ladywell Stream was continued by villagers until about 1960.

Between 1985 to 1991, the flow of Plantation Stream switched completely to a "new" route from the swampy half-way pool into the depression.  Here it merged with the former St. Cuthbert's Stream, and flowed on into the cave.

During the time when Plantation Stream was sinking in or near Plantation Swallet, St. Cuthbert's Stream (about one third of the size of Plantation Stream) was an entirely separate stream sinking near the Entrance Shaft.  There was no indication of this stream on any of the O.S. maps which have been referred to, although earlier versions of this stream were shown on the 1860 map.  The stream could be followed for about 170 m to the north-east, where it emerged from a marsh.  In the St. Cuthbert's Report, Dave Irwin expressed the opinion that this water came from the Mineries Pool (Irwin, 1991, p.63-64).  Recent studies have produced new data.  Between September 1995 and January 1996, a quite unprecedented surge of sulphate ions passed through the Mineries Pool.  At the swallet, the sulphate was shown to have been diluted by mixing with water from the former St. Cuthbert's inlet stream, which had normal sulphate levels.  By the Method of Mixtures it was possible to use sulphate levels and discharge measurements, before and after mixing, to calculate the sulphate levels in the hidden inlet stream.  Sampling was continued to February 1997, and the sulphate surge was completely absent from the inlet.  This is proof that the water did not pass through the Mineries Pool.

The 1860 map showed two leets (drainage channels) on the south-western slopes of Stock Hill, where the underlying rock is at first impervious Old Red Sandstone, then Lower Limestone Shales.  One leet took water to the lower Reservoir Pool on the Chewton Minery.  Flow from the second leet was divided between the two leadworks.  The area drained by the two leets is substantial, and without artificial interception, the water would have drained as "interflow" to the Priddy Minery. Earlier flow routes are now buried under the tramway from the Pool to the Priddy Minery smelter, and under heaps of slag.  But in wet weather, water can be seen welling up from beneath slag heaps, and flowing into the very marsh from which the former St. Cuthbert's Stream emerged. The chemistry of the former inlet (measured directly from 1966 to 1973 and by 6 samples taken in the recent studies, and from recent data calculated by stream ratios) is similar to that of another spring nearby which drains Old Red Sandstone; Fair Lady Well.  It is my conclusion that the buried flow-lines from Stock Hill to St. Cuthbert's Stream still operate, and that drainage from this part of Stock Hill is indeed the major source of the St. Cuthbert's Stream inlet.


The reliability of two maps of the area was checked (they were both originals, not photo-copies). The maps in question were the 1961 edition of the 6":1 m O.S map, and the 1963 edition of the 1:2500 O.S. map. First the north-south and the east-west grids were checked. Next the diagonals were measured to check for angular distortion.  Then the checks were repeated on several parts of the maps to check for planar distortion.  Both maps passed the tests.  The co-ordinates of 11 objects (such as wall corners or junctions) were measured, and 2 point-to-point distances were measured.  Measurements were estimated to the nearest 0.1mm equivalent to approx. 2 m on the first map, and to 1/4 m on the second.  Lengths had therefore been measured to 4 m and 0.5 m respectively. From the results, the differences in east and west co-ordinates were tabulated, and the plan differences were calculated.  The mean difference was 9.3 m, with a standard deviation for 11 values of 6.40. The difference for one important corner, the one near Fair Lady Well, was 25.5 m.  Without the distortion caused by this exceptional value, the mean of the remaining 10 differences was 7.7 m (S.D. 6.04).  The difference in the bearing of the wall between the two corners was 3¢.  A wall here is known to have been moved, but it was obviously very important to know which of the sets of figures was correct.

Two distances were measured on three maps; the 1963 1:25000 map and the 1961 6":1 m O.S. map, as already mentioned, and a copy of the 1903 1:2500 O.S. map.  The lengths in the present (1996) survey were also calculated for the same two distances.  The legs were chosen so as to include both wall corners which had been chosen to calibrate the compass.  The two distances were:

1.                  From the lower wall corner to the wall junction behind the Belfry, and

2.                  From the higher wall corner to the middle of Fair Lady Well.

The results (in metres) are shown below:






Lower corner to wall junction

Upper corner to Ladywell









The figures suggest that the 1963 1:2500 map was, in this case, much more reliable and accurate than the other O.S. maps.  They also confirm that the two wall corners originally chosen to calibrate the compass were satisfactory in this particular case, but there had been a high risk of making a serious error.  Field results have once again demonstrated the crucial need for taking very great care when calibrating compasses for cave surveying.  The statistics quoted here quantify the reliability of measurements which have been made from large-scale O.S. maps.  If greater precision is required, the use of satellite location technology will be necessary.


Irwin, D.J. 1991 St. Cuthbert's Swallet. BEC, pp82.

Irwin, D.J. and Stenner, RD. 1977 Magnetic influences and cave surveying.  BEC Cav. Rep. 21 (Cave Notes 1975-1977) 35-6.

Irwin, D.J. and Stenner, RD. 1975 Accuracy and closure of traverses in cave surveying.  BCRA Trans. 2(4), 151-165.

Irwin, D.J., Stenner, RD and Tilly, G.D.  1968 The discovery and exploration of St. Cuthbert's Swallet. BEC Cav. Rep. 13(A), 36pp.

Stenner, RD. 1968 Water tracing in St. Cuthbert's Swallet, Priddy, Somerset.  Trans. CRG 10(2), 49-60.

Tilly, G.D. 1967 Manuscript draft of his contribution to Irwin, Stenner and Tilly, 1968.

 Working Weekend

Cleaning, repairs, general maintenance.

Plenty of work for all!!

BBQ free for all workers

Sat/Sun 16th/17th May

Meet at the belfry at 10.00 am

Contact: - Nicke Mitchell,

Hut Engineer For Further Details:

Rolling Calendar

25/4/98 - 8/5/98          Annual Assynt Expedition, Scotland - J'Rat, Bat Products

10/5/98                      BEC Committee Meeting, 7.00pm

15-17/5/98                  NAMHO field meet Nenthead Village Hall, Nenthead, Alston, Cumbria

16-17/5/98                  BEC Working Weekend -Nick Mitchell

16/5/98                      CSCC Meeting

5/6/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

13/6/98                      Rescue Practice,  Location - T.B.A. - Andy Sparrow  Meet at Belfry 10.00am

20/6/98                      The 49ers Birthday Party, Priddy Village Hall, Tickets available soon - Quackers, J'Rat - Via Hunters Lodge or Bat Products

20/6/98                      GB Conservation Day 11.00am at GB car park Andy Thomas Caving Sec.

317/98                       BEC Committee Meeting

4-5/7/98                     Cavers Fair Priddy Village Hall, Mendip, Alan Butcher

7/8/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

??/8/98                      Austria Expedition - Alex Gee

21-22/8/98                  BEC Working Weekend -Nick Mitchell

4/9/98                        BEC Committee Meeting

18-20/9/98                  BCRA Conference, Floral Hall, Southport

30/9/98 - 14/11/98       ISSA Exhibition, St David's Hall, Cardiff - ISSA

3/10/98                      BEC AGM and Dinner

18/11/98 - 28/11/98     A Brush with Darkness - Paintings of Mendip's caves - Wells Museum- ISSA

26/11/98                     Underground painting techniques/demonstration, Wells Museum 7.30pm Robin Gray

There have been no specific requests for bookings for caving trips in Yorkshire, Derbyshire or Wales from any members as yet.

Andy Thomas is planning to book some permits for the club shortly, but what we don't want is booked permits not being used, as per some previous years; it's not fair on the other clubs if we have unused permits and they can't book trips for a particular weekend. If you wish to visit a particular cave, please contact Andy with some ideas for dates and he will do his best to book them.

We're sure we have quite a lot of members who have done very little caving anywhere apart from Mendip, so come on guys and gels, be a bit adventurous!!!